Monday, September 09, 2013

My Leander Paes Story

Since the Steelers looked pretty bad in losing their season debut against the Titans Sunday and the Pirates got swept by the Cardinals in St. Louis, I'm not in the mood to write about Pittsburgh sports today. Instead, I want to share my story about Leander Paes. There's a very good chance you have no idea who Leander Paes is. If I told you that Paes has won 14 tennis Grand Slam titles, you still may not know who he is. Paes along with Radek Stepanek earned the men's doubles title yesterday at the US Open.

Paes is the guy on the left. Oh, did I mention that Paes is 40 years old and that I saw him play even though I didn't realize this?

In the summer of 2000, I studied in Lancaster, England as part of my grad program. I had a very odd assignment to help Lancaster University's Management School determine how international students discovered the school through internet searches and to compare the school's website to other business schools in the UK. It had nothing to do with my graduate program, my supervisor took a 2-week holiday during my time there, and I spent most of my time conducting internet searches. Actually, this may have helped me become a blogger!

Anyway, on weekends, we traveled to places like London, Dublin, and Edinburgh. My first weekend coincided with Wimbledon, so since I knew I would be in London, I went with a friend to see this historic tournament. As it turned out, I was not alone. Shockingly, thousands of other people wanted to see Wimbledon on a nice summer Saturday. We waited in line (I'm sorry, "queued") for about 2.5 hours until we finally purchased general admission tickets for 4 pounds, or $6. This granted us full access to the grounds with the exception of the main two courts. My friend and I went to one of the outer courts where Serena & Venus Williams were scheduled to play a doubles match later in the afternoon. However, the all-Swedish match between Thomas Johansson (who later won the Australian Open) and Magnus Gustafsson lasted forever in a not terribly exciting 5 sets. We wandered around the grounds and saw Mary Pierce and Martina Hingis play doubles. We also saw the Williams sisters who got moved to a different court, but the crowd around them made it difficult to see. At the end of the day, Wimbledon opened up the main arena for everyone. That's where I saw Leander Paes.

Paes teamed with arguably the greatest women's tennis player of all-time, Martina Navratilova, in mixed doubles. Very few people were even aware of Paes. At one point, prior to his serve, someone yelled, "Go Martina's partner" which caused Paes to laugh. The match ended up getting suspended due to darkness, but I was and am proud to say that I saw Martina play at Wimbledon.

Probably ten years later, I discovered that Paes played with the Washington Kastles as part of World Team Tennis. While I still haven't attended a match, I receive e-mails from the Kastles constantly which includes updates about players at the Grand Slam tournaments. Therefore, I've rediscovered Paes after all these years.

Congratulations to Paes on yesterday's amazing achievement! Maybe I'll get to see him play for the Kastles or at the US Open next summer!

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