New York: The oldest male tennis player to win a Grand Slam with the US Open men's doubles trophy, Indian veteran Leander Paes said age is just a number for him, something that he just "looks at and smiles".
The 40-year-old partnered Czech Radek Stepanek to win the US Open 2013 men's doubles title, his eighth men's doubles Grand Slam title and 14th overall, last night after beating Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares 6-1 6-3.
"Today Radek helped me to get to be the oldest man or the oldest tennis player to ever win a Grand Slam in the Open era. I thank him for that, and we are definitely not done. I'm going after 41 now, 42, and then 43," said Paes after winning the title.
"We both come from humble background and come from countries where tennis wasn't necessarily the number one sport. We both fought against adversity to get to where we are. So age is just a number for us. Age is something that we look at and we smile.
"We chat with you guys and smile about it, because, you know, you guys tease us about it, which is nice. For us, we really take it very seriously to go out and get better every day and to push each other," he added.
Paes insisted that this was one of his most "special" victories.
"This one is actually really, really special. For me, this one is probably even more special than the Australian Open win. In Australia I was going for a career slam, and that was something that Radek worked so hard to do.
"We achieved it; he did it for me. That was really special. This one really means a lot to me, because through this year we both had to handle a lot of adversity," he said.
"I have always said that tennis is such a blessed profession for us that you build friendships, you build camaraderie, you build a brotherhood. For me to win this trophy after the year Radek had with him is just something I will never forget," Paes added.
The veteran said the victory counts among some of the best moments of his long career.
"It's way up there with some of the best Grand Slams that I have ever won. Today is my 31st final, and this young man is probably the best partner I have had. I really enjoy travelling with him, working with him, playing with him, working hard to be better," said Paes.
It was the third US Open title for Paes and the previous two had also come with Czech partners. In 2006, the Indian won with Martin Damm and in 2009 with Lukas Dlouhy.
Paes paid tribute to Stepanek, acknowledging his resilience as he came back well from a back surgery early this year.
"Find someone from Czech republic that's my advise to anyone who is looking for a doubles partner. They are hard working guys. I have to thank him," quipped the Indian.
"He had lot of adversities this season, coming out of injury and surgery it's amazing to stand here. I have to thank him," he said.
Paes attributed his success to the "respect" that he always showed to the sport, to his partners and his opponents.
"When I get on the court, my respect for my opponents are so much that I will put my best every single point, every single shot. That comes out of respect for the game. That comes out of respect for your opponents, a lot of respect for your partner.