The 47-year-old is contemplating to extend his career till the end of the Tokyo Olympics.
The ongoing COVID-19 lockdown has understandably put most athletes at a disadvantage due to the absence of proper training facilities among other problems. However, Indian tennis legend Leander Paes insists that the lockdown has been a “blessing” for him, having used it to re-invent himself and getting himself ready to play once the sport resumes.
In a webinar hosted by the Indian Chamber of Commerce–Young Leaders Forum, he spoke on how 2020 was supposed to be his swansong season, before the COVID-19 triggered lockdown handed him a well-deserved break after thirty years of playing the game.
“Last year in September 2019, I looked to retire because I was jaded from 30 years of playing the sport. I had to take time away, I had to read, I had to spend time with my father, it was such a blessing that I’ve had over the last 93 days, to be able to interact with my father. When the lockdown opens up, and I do come back to my profession, I’m a new version of Leander, of that 30-year-old athlete,” said Leander Paes.
The 18-time Grand Slam winner also stated that he was looking forward to unleashing his new version in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, but now he is concerned about whether the organizers will be able to pull off the event which has been postponed to 2021 due to the growing Coronavirus fears.
Leander Paes, who is also the first Indian and the only tennis player to compete in seven consecutive Olympic Games, observed, “I’m really concerned about the Olympics because that is relevant to my history, my legacy. I was on a ‘One Last Roar’ season, culminating with the Tokyo Olympics. But now that is pushed to 2021, and with the global economy also going down, how will those corporate sponsors for the Olympics, still stand their ground to support the Olympics?”
“How will the Japanese sporting governance still be able to conduct the Olympics, especially if it is behind closed doors? Where is the revenue coming from, knowing that the stadiums are empty? It’s all an issue that we will face. Sport is such a big business, you’ve got athletes who are 100 million dollars worth athletes. Each of my playing hands is insured for millions and millions. But I’m not allowed to even chop a tomato unless I do it very cautiously.”
The 1997 Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award winner is also not a fan of sports returning before a vaccine for Coronavirus has been discovered. “Can you imagine players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi catching COVID 19? God forbid, can you imagine Messi having to go into a hospital and fighting for his life with COVID-19?” he asked.
“Can you imagine a professional athlete catching COVID-19 right now today before the vaccine comes out. How far it will put the sport back? These are real issues. They have already started playing, they are already in contact with, not just the ball at their feet which is a minimal risk whatsoever but in terms of contact the context, in terms of a push or dive or a tackle,” Leander Paes concluded.