The famed celeb of the Indian tennis industry, Leander Paes was hon honored by the former Olympians and sports persons at the KSLTA Stadium here on Sunday while he played his last ATP event in Bengaluru.
The men’s doubles final that lasted for 56 minutes on Saturday, Paes and partner Edben, the Aussie player were trashed with a score of 0-6,3-6. Paes and Ebden had entered the final match after defeating third seeds Andre Goransson of Sweden and Christopher Rungkat of Indonesia 7-5, 0-6, 10-7 in the semi-finals.
There were athletes who began their career at the same time as Paes but had dangled their boots while the 46-year-old, who has had a notable career of 30 years studded with many awards, is playing in his last year depicting it as the “the Last Roar”.
On Sunday, just before the singles finals, the Paes was given a stirring sendoff with superstars from various sports including former hockey players Jude Felix, VR Raghunath, Arjun Halappa, former track, and field athlete Ashwini Nachappa and Davis Cupper Prahlad Srinath joining thousands of people who had assembled here.
Adding to the list of guests in attendance at the event were former swimmers Reshma and Nisha Millet, former heptathlete Pramila Aiyappa and former long jumper Reeth Abraham.
All the athletes amused the audience with their experiences with Paes, who was overwhelmed with emotion.
“All of you taught me how the passion for sport, dedication and hard work helps us to achieve success,” said Paes while requesting the audience to give a standing ovation to the former athletes.
“The fact that I’ve played my last match in India – it sunk in after the match when I was signing autographs. A young girl – must have been five or six years old – gave me a ‘One Last Roar’ t-shirt which was twice her size.
“She gave it to me and said, ‘Leander, can you sign this?’. She must have been about 40 years younger than me, and she wanted my autograph. It meant a lot to me because she recognized the effort I have put into my career.
“And when I signed the t-shirt and gave it to her, she turned around and said ‘Bye’. She said bye. That’s a great way to go,” Paes had said after his final match on home soil on Saturday.