India will be celebrating its most successful Davis Cup player this weekend when Paes’ 20 years in the competition are acknowledged in a special ceremony during the match here, on Saturday.
The 37 year-old has taken part every year since 1990. The World Group play-off tie against Brazil will be his 47th tie for India.
Paes has been part of several of India’s highs and lows in his Davis Cup career. His debut came three years after the country’s most recent appearance in the Davis Cup final, which they lost to Sweden (the Indians have been runners-up thrice).
It was a longish debut for Paes as he and Zeeshan Ali won a five-set doubles marathon against Shuzo Matsuoka and Shigeru Ota 18-16 in the course of a 4-1 victory over Japan in Chandigarh.
That was the start of a memorable run, punctuated by gutsy performances from a player who has always been passionate about playing for his country. The Olympic singles bronze at Atlanta in 1996 is probably another indication of the pride he takes in representing India.
Though he has achieved a lot in doubles on the tour, Paes has clocked up 48 wins in singles and 37 in doubles in Davis Cup, playing both as recently as 2008. He has an 85-31 record in total in the competition, and his doubles record is 37-9.
Alongside Mahesh Bhupathi, Paes has formed a formidable combination and they have been tough to beat, even for top partnerships, especially in Davis Cup.
Among the highlights of Paes’ career have been his heroics in securing wins over Switzerland and France and helping India reach the semifinals in 1993. That apart, he has scripted many a success in Cup play and several top names have fallen victim.
Paes, who spent a good amount of time in Chennai during his formative years as he was part of the Britannia Amritraj Tennis (BAT) foundation, will certainly love to be playing Davis Cup in the city, which is at times referred as the home of tennis in the country.
It will be the first time that Paes and Co. will be playing Davis Cup in this sports-mad metropolis and the fiercely proud Paes will be eager to make it count.
As the host attempts to beat Brazil and stay in the World Group, Paes will be there to support his teammates to the hilt and hope that he enters the third decade in Cup play in style.