Have been working on a new version of myself during lockdown, says Paes

Tennis legend Leander Paes on Saturday said he has been working on a ‘new version’ of himself during this COVID-19 induced lockdown period to keep himself ready for the rigours of the sport once it resumes.

Paes, who turned 47 on Wednesday, had earlier announced that 2020 would be his last season as a professional player but his plan to bid adieu on a high with a record eighth appearance at the Olympics, was stalled by the pandemic, which has wrecked the sporting calendar. The Tokyo Olympics is now slated to take place from July 23-August 8, 2021.

“If I can use this lockdown to enhance my physical fitness which is what I have done. If I can use this lockdown to take a rejuvenated break to take my mind fresh. Last year in September 2019 I looked to retire because I was jaded from 30 years of playing this sport. So I had to reinvent myself,” Paes, the winner of 18 majors, said during a webinar session organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce on Zoom platform.

“I had to read, spend time with my father. I looked to enhance my individual being so that when the lockdown opens up and I do come back to my profession, I am a new version of Leander. I am a new version of that 30 years (of playing) old athlete that’s there,” said Paes.

He won India a singles Olympic medal in 1996 and has been Indian tennis’ flagbearer since then.

Quizzed about his plans after he calls time on his illustrious career, the ever-passionate Paes said: “What moves me is the community. Now in the community, there are many different age brackets and genders and also there are different vehicles that we can use.”

The 47-year-old said he would love to work on physical education classes in schools in India which he feels are ‘archaic’.

“Sports education is one of the things I love doing. In the physical education period in schools, I feel the classes are very archaic. I don’t think physical education classes are dealing with mental stress of exams or mental pressure or depression.

“It does not deal with emotional happiness. I believe that sports psychologists or sports educators like myself can go out there and through the PE classes work with local and private, government schools and sports departments in each state by state…make a difference to each one of our children’s lives.

“This target audience is from the age of 3-25. That is 50 per cent of our population. How we can spend the next one-two decades on changing the philosophy of sports health and mental health,” he added.