Every athlete needs a signature moment to make history. One such memorable moment in the life of leander Paes, one of the most successful of Indian professional tennis players, was his historic completion of a career Grand Slam of doubles crowns, which he achieved at the 2012 Australian Open. Playing alongside Czech Radek Stepanek, the 38-year-old livewire lit Melbourne Park with his sparkling play on January 28, 2012, beating American siblings Bob and Mike Bryan in the men's doubles final. With this momentous win, Paes won the applause of the admirers across the world.
Leander Adrian Paes was born on June 17, 1973 in Kolkata. His parents were both sportspersons. Paes' father Mr. Vece Paes was in the Indian hockey team, and his mother Ms. Jennifer Paes was a basketball player. Paes was educated at La Martiniere, Kolkata; Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School. Chennai; and the Loyola College, Chennai. He enrolled with the Britannia Amritraj Tennis Academy in Chennai in 1985, which played a key role in his early development. Leander shot to international fame when he won the Junior US Open and the 1990 Wimbledon Junior title, and rose to No.1 in the junior world rankings. Thus showing promise early in his career, Paes turned professional in 1991. In 1992, he reached the quarter finals of the doubles event in the Barcelona Olympics pairing with Ramesh Krishnan. In 1993, he partnered Sebastien Lareau to reach the US Open doubles semifinal. At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Paes beat Fernando Meligeni to win the Bronze medal, thus becoming the first Indian to win an individual medal since K. D. Jadhav won Bronze at Helsinki Olympics in 1952.
Leander Paes is known for changing partnerships and experimenting with it. He has played with as many as 87 Men's Doubles partners in his career, which itself is an all-time record. In 1997, Paes partnered with fellow-Indian Mahesh Bhupathi, reaching the semifinals of the US Open. In 1998, Paes won an ATP singles title at Newport, and also beat Pete Sampras at the New Haven ATP tournament. In 1999, the winning combination of Paes and Bhupathi reached the finals of all four Grand Slams, winning Wimbledon and the French Open, thus becoming the first Indian pair to win a doubles event at a Grand Slam. Paes also teamed up with Lisa Raymond to win the mixed doubles event at Wimbledon. The year also marked his ascent to the No. 1 ranking in doubles. Nicknamed as "Indian Express", the duo of Paes and Bhupathi won the Gold medal at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan.
In 2003, Paes won the mixed doubles events at the Australian Open and Wimbledon with Martina Navaratilova. His next Grand Slam success was in the US Open doubles event in 2006 with Martin Damm. Paes led the Indian tennis team at the Doha Asian Games in 2006 and won two Golds in the men's doubles (partnering Bhupathi) and mixed doubles (partnering Sania Mirza). In 2009, he won the French Open and US Open Men's doubles titles with Lukas Dlouhy. He began the 2010 season in good form, again winning the Australian Open mixed doubles title with Cara Black. The 2010 Wimbledon win with Cara Black made Paes India's leading Grand Slam winner, ahead of his ex-doubles partner Mahesh Bhupathi, with a total of 12 grand slam titles. In 2011, the "Indian Express" pair reunited to play in the Australian Open men's doubles event and finished runners-up.
Paes is considered one of the top Davis Cup players for India, with a record of 86-31 overall, as of January 2012. Paes is the recipient of India's highest sporting honour, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award (1996-97), the Arjuna Award (1990) and the Padma Shri (2001) for his outstanding contribution to tennis in India. Paes was even given the honour of carrying the Indian Flag at the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.