After ending Tata Maharashtra Open as a quarter-finalist. Leander Paes ended the Bengaluru Tennis Open as the runner-up in the men’s doubles event, leading his former Grand Slam winning partner Mahesh Bhupathi to believe that the 46-year-old Indian tennis ace could play for another year in his current form.
It was late last year that Leander Paes had announced that he will retire after playing selective campaigns in 2020, where he has excelled so far.
“He's still playing well. He made the final of Bengaluru (Tennis Open),” Mahesh Bhupathi, who has won eight mixed and four men's doubles majors, told the Press Trust of India.
“If he continues to play well for a few more months, maybe he will play for another year. I think the way he's playing he should play as long as he can."
The pairing of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi highlight the golden era of Indian tennis. Enjoying a win-loss ratio of 303–103, Paes and Bhupathi boast a Davis Cup record for the longest doubles winning streak with 24 straight victories.
The duo, dubbed ‘Lee-Hesh’, also didn’t lose a single match in the tournament from 1995 to 2010. Mahesh Bhupathi has also won three of his four Grand Slam doubles titles alongside Leander Paes.
Leander Paes’ Olympic berth uncertain
While Mahesh Bhupathi is fairly certain that his former doubles partner can extend his playing career by a year, he was, however, ambivalent on Paes’ chances to cement a spot in what would be his record eighth Olympics participation.
"There are four-five candidates in contention. We will have to wait and see till the cut-off date," Mahesh Bhupathi pointed out.
Currently, India’s top two men’s doubles players are Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan, who are prime contenders to be India’s first-choice men’s doubles duo.
Leander Paes, ranked 116 in the world, will have to improve his ranking significantly before the cut-off date in June and that would need leapfrogging compatriots Ramkumar Ramanathan and Purav Raja.
What next for Leander Paes
The Indian tennis veteran’s quest to improve his rankings will continue at the Dubai ATP Tour 500 event, which starts on February 24.