Bangalore: Even after 23 years of Davis Cup tennis, Leander Paes feels he is still young enough to continue since the tricolour and the very thought of representing India provides him all the motivation he needs.
The 39-year-old will be playing his 50th Davis Cup tie Saturday, a milestone that seems to surprise him. "Fiftieth? Are you sure? I still feel young," said the Kolkata-born, Mumbai-based Paes, who has a 48-22 win-loss Davis Cup record in singles and 39-10 in doubles.
"The flag and the privilege of representing India are the biggest motivating factors for me and of course, my passion for tennis," said Paes on the sidelines of the draw ceremony for the Asia-Oceania Davis Cup Group I relegation play-off tie between India and Indonesia commencing here Friday.
Born to Vece Paes, a hockey bronze medallist at the 1972 Munich Olympics, and Jennifer, who captained India in basketball and also participated in the Munich Olympics, Leander felt he inherited certain virtues that helped him perform at the highest level.
"My mother played basketball and that is how I inherited the speed. She was extremely fast and agile on the court. I learned to be organised from my dad, in terms of preparation and in life itself," said Paes, who emulated his father by winning the bronze medal in singles at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, defeating Fernando Meligeni of Brazil.
At the post-draw media conference, Paes, when asked to pick some of the highlights of his Davis Cup career, singled out India's 3-2 win against the highly-rated France in a World Group quarterfinal tie in Frejus among his most memorable moments.
At Frejus, Paes won both his singles against Henri Leconte and Arnaud Boetsch while Ramesh Krishnan took the second reverse singles against Rodolphe Gilbert in five sets to give India the tie 3-2.
"Frejus is of course up there. We beat some top-10 players and on alien surface (clay). Then my win over Goran (Ivanesivic) was as memorable," said Paes referring to his stirring five-set win over the big-serving Croatian, then ranked No.7, in a World Group first round tie in New Delhi where India won 3-2.
Leander's father Vece, who was also present at the draw ceremony, later told IANS: "Of course, it's a great moment, Leander playing his 50th Davis Cup tie. It is tough to get to the top, but tougher to stay there.
"When he was 13 or 14, I remember telling him that the transition from junior to senior ranks would be extremely difficult, but he had to sustain his performance all through and this is what I would tell any youngster. I am happy that he has done so," said Vece.