Indian tennis great Leander Paes went down memory lane, recalling his early days and fun anecdotes in school with Hrishikesh Kannan, a radio host and producer in Mumbai.
During an Instagram Live that took place owing to the coronavirus-enforced lockdown, Paes remembered the start of his tennis journey.
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Paes and Kannan are childhood friends from La Martiniere, a school in Kolkata, and have known each other for over 30 years. The 18-time Grand Slam doubles champion spoke about how it was Kannan, who is responsible for him picking up tennis.
“Let me tell you HrishiKay is the reason I’m a tennis player,” Paes said early on.
They later recounted the story of how a plan to bunk school and become ball boys for a Davis Cup match put Paes on the path of his journey.
Kannan has one of Paes’ trophies – the 2003 Gstaad doubles title – because the tennis great likes to give trophies to his friends as a mark of respect for what they have done for him.
The 46-year-old tennis player recalled how his father, Olympian Vece Paes, encouraged him to play all sports to expend his energy and he went to tennis court to meet his friends.
One day, Kannan told him that a Davis Cup tie was going to be played at South Club and the Indian team had the likes of Vijay Amritraj, Anand Amritraj, Shashi Menon, Zeeshan Ali. At the time they were about 10-11 years and Kannan suggested that they could bunk class and can go become ball boys at the Davis Cup.
Paes said that bunking class may have been the initial motivation and he got his parents to sign a diary entry that exempted him from class and a glass of lemonade sealed their positions as ball kids.
Former Indian player Akhtar Ali, who trained Paes, then told him to bring his racquets so he can hit with Anand and Vijay Amritraj. The rest, as they say, is history as Paes was picked to join the Britannia Amritraj Tennis Academy in Chennai (Madras as it was then known) in 1985. The academy played a key role in his development and he won the 1990 Wimbledon Junior title to begin his iconic journey.
Kannan also revealed a heroic story when Paes climbed from a ledge of one window to another and saved the life of their friend during a fire.
There are a host of such anecdotes in the whole chat. Watch it here: