Veteran Indian tennis player Leander Paes has admitted that the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics has thrown his retirement plan off course with his family and coaches now pushing the 47-year-old to continue for another year.
The escalation of the coronavirus cases throughout the world saw the International Olympic Committee (IOC) coming up with the decision of rescheduling the Games last week.
This has put Leander Paes and his team in a state of limbo as the athlete had announced on December 25, 2019, that he would be bidding farewell after the 2020 tennis calendar season.
The retirement decision was taken keeping in mind that the 2020 Olympics, which was originally scheduled to be held in July-August, would also be his eighth one and give him the most ever appearances by a tennis player.
"It's a decision that me and my team are thinking about very hard,” Leander Paes told ESPN.
“My dad has been vociferous in wanting to push me to play longer. He knows me well. He knows once I retire, I'm done. There's not going to be a return,” he pointed out.
The 1996 Olympics bronze medal winner has represented Indian in seven Olympic Games and was eyeing a record eighth this year. Now, a postponement of Tokyo 2020 would mean that Leander Paes must recalibrate his calendar and training regime altogether.
"It's very tough. I have trained specifically for this season, just like most other athletes and all of us are having to deal with this shift and movement. When we head into a competition like the Olympics, athletes try to, what we call, find our zone. The rhythm that we need coming to an Olympics consists of tremendous training and a lot of competition.”
Training gets trickier
Leander Paes first made his appearance at the Games at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona when he had reached the quarter-finals of the doubles event alongside Ramesh Krishnan. Since then he has won eight men’s doubles titles and 10 mixed doubles titles in Grand Slams in a career that has lasted 29 years.
Prolonging his professional career by another year in a taxing sport like tennis, especially approaching 50 years of age, is an uphill task. However, the 18-time Grand Slam title winner aims to hang up his racket after putting India in the history books with an eighth Olympic appearance.
“We've been working every day to stay fit and healthy and watch our diet and be careful of not just losing the fitness I've worked on already, but also enhance my fitness.
“We will make a decision shortly on whether to continue and make this one last roar, a really long roar," he concluded.