New Delhi: The bitterness of not getting a shot at the Olympics mixed doubles event continues to rankle Leander Peas and the veteran Indian tennis star has no qualms in stating that the country did not send its best team in the event to Rio.
"I can very clearly say that in this Olympics and last Olympics we didn't put the best team forward. This Olympics the mixed doubles was a great opportunity. What more does a man need to do than win four Grand Slams in 14 months. There was no more tournaments to win, I could not create anymore tournaments. Sad. Long story short, let's nurture these kids," Paes said referring to his fantastic mixed double run leading up to the Games.
Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna had been picked to represent India in the Games and the duo lost in the semifinals before going down in the bronze medal playoff as well.
Paes was speaking to the media after partnering Saketh Myneni in a hard-fought men's doubles loss to Olympic champions Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez in the ongoing Davis Cup. The 43-year-old said he would love to partner Myneni in the circuit as well.
"I always believe it is the decision of the selection committee and captain but considering the way we played against a gold medal winning team and that too against 14-time Grand Slam champion and Marc Lopez who has just come from winning a Grand Slam, good God, it will be crazy to switch anything around but having said that I am here to support the team," the 43-year-old said.
"I have a little long sight, sometimes people believe in it and sometimes people don't. We have the Asian Games coming up in 18 months and the Olympics in four years and whether I am around or not around, we need to nurture these guys or else four years from now it will again be a tussle who is playing and who is not.
"I would love to play with him. I had a lot of partners who are much less talented than him. If I get Saketh for six months and if he keeps working hard, this guy can win a Grand Slam with others not just with me. This guy can be a Grand Slam winner, he is a hell of a player," he added.
Paes heaped praise on Myneni, saying that the youngster has it in him to be a Grand Slam winner.
"I am really excited because I and Saketh played for the first time together. I am impressed by his serve and return. I think he is a natural hard court player. I think he is a really good leader. In India, most guys want to follow and having played with 107 players, I kind of know his personality is not so bad.
"He gets out there, and even in tough situations he would say 'Lee crack your return'. I like that someone is working with the perspective of winning. I enjoyed playing and if we can have 4-5 matches together we will do really well to build a partnership here," he said.
"He is very receptive to something you tell him...for four sets, we knew what shot we wanted to play, we wanted to come back against them."
Myneni, on his part, said that he wants to concentrate on playing singles right now.
"Singles is still my priority as long my body permits. I love the offer that he gave me. I am still learning a lot both the on court and off court. it is a long way to go. So I would like to play singles and balance it up with doubles. I would like to move my singles ranking up so that I can play doubles also."
Talking about the the match on Saturday, Paes said: "We had them in ropes in the first two sets, who knows what would have happened if we had won the second set...I am happy that I was able to lead and find a way against two champions. They are sharp and it was a great pleasure to play with Saketh."
Talking about Nadal, Paes said: "I have played him many times in Dubai and Miami. He is one of the greatest players, there is no weakness in his game but when you play a doubles match against singles player, you try to make him as uncomfortable as you can, if you can do that for long period you will win more points.
"Today it shows what a champion he is, we got him uncomfortable right in the first set, breaking his serve in the second and right to the threshold of winning the second and yet he found a way out."