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We have a fair chance, says Leander Paes

Beijing, Aug 7 (UNI) Veteran tennis player Leander Paes today promised a better show in the Olympics, saying he and Mahesh Bhupathi has a fair chance in the doubles event.

''Yes, the field is tough but I think me along with Mahesh stand a fair chance,'' Paes told mediapersons after training the session here this afternoon.

''The field is no doubt very strong but then it is Olympics,'' said Paes and added, ''It is a great platform to perform and if we click well we stand a good chance.'' The Indian duo, seeded seventh here, will take on French pair of Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon.

Monfils was a semi-finalist in the French Open's singles but in doubles he is not considered a very experienced player.

Leander Paes was just 19 when he first played in the Olympics. That was in 1992 at Barcelona. And when he will step inside the court here on August 10, he will become the second Indian to have taken part in five or more Olympics (shooter Randhir Singh participated in six Games).

Asked how he felt representing the country for the fifth time in a row at the Olympics, he said, ''I feel younger and happy.'' It is always great to represent your country at this level of competition, said Paes who became the second individual Indian player to win an Olympic medal as he finished third in the 1996 Olympic games.

If luck had not deserted him, Paes could have had two more Olympic medals, from doubles. On his debut, he paired with Ramesh Krishnan, and they toppled top seeds John Fitzgerald and Todd Woodbridge en route to the quarter-finals.

However, they lost to unseeded Croatian pair of Goran Ivanisevic and Goran Prpic in four sets. A victory in that match would have fetched them a bronze (there was no play-off for third place at that time).

But his moment of glory came four years later, in Atlanta.

He made it to the last four toppling three seeded players.

He lost to Andre Agassi, but came from behind to beat Brazilian Fernando Meligeni to earn an individual Olympic medal for the country after 44 years.

In the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Leander and Mahesh Bhupathi made early exit but four years later at Athens, the 'Indian Express' missed the bronze by a whisker.

They lost 14-16 in the third and deciding set to Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic.

Paes became nostalgic when reminded of that match, ''It was disheartening to lose a medal match after being up by two match points.

''I have already won a bronze (1996) in the singles, now I want to win in doubles too,'he said.

He praised his coach Ric Leech who joined him this year, saying he has done a wonderful job with him. ''I am fit and raring to go.'' Can they reproduce the form that won them three Grand Slam doubles titles despite having broken up as a team in March 2002?.

Paes is confident. ''We may not be playing together regularly these days, but we have played enough to regain rhythm and understanding when we are on the same side of the court.

''We've played two tournaments recently and will train together for a week before we take on our opponents.

''There will be a lot of tough and hungry teams out there, but we are focussed and getting ready for the big occasion.

I am confident,'' he added.


Story first published: Thursday, August 7, 2008, 16:06 [IST]
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