Mumbai, Nov 15: Eager to play in the upcoming Champions Tennis League (CTL), starting on Monday, veteran Indian star Leander Paes today said that the new league has integrated the international and national players well.
"I think Vijay (Amritraj) has done a great job in the CTL format. CTL goes from city to city and all over the country and also integrates Indian players and Western players of very high level," Paes told reporters here.
"He has got all the Davis Cup players, the Fed Cup players and got the greats playing. You have got (Marin) Cilic who won the US Open, Pat Cash, (Martina) Navratilova, (Martina) Hingis, Tommy Robredo, (Mikhail) Youzhny. I think Vijay's league has integrated nicely the international and Indian players coming together," the 41-year-old said at the sidelines of the Premier Tennis League event, which was earlier known as Maharashtra Tennis League.
A part of the Punjab Marshalls franchise, Paes said he was looking forward to the league. "I am excited to play for Punjab Marshalls. I will leave for Delhi tomorrow (where the opening tie between Delhi and Punjab is scheduled on Nov 17). I start playing on Monday night so really looking forward to that.
"Vijay is a good man. He has done some great things for tennis over the years. I grew up in his tennis academy and now to play the league with him and support that league is something I really look forward to," said Paes.
With the Mahesh Bhupathi-led International Tennis Premier League (IPTL) also in the fray, asked about the feasibility of these leagues, Paes said, "Whether you have three leagues in one sport or whether you have 30 leagues in 30 sports, the sustenance of it is important. To sustain that quality is very important.
"Anybody can start something for the first time but to make sure that the levels stay the same and then improves, is what is important," he explained.
'Looking forward to 100th partner'
Paes, winner of 14 Grand Slam titles, said he has had some great friendships over the years and was still looking for his 100th partner on court.
"I am really looking forward to my 100th partner. I am at 98th at the moment. Wawrinka was my 98th and I have had such great friends. My tennis has allowed to make such great friendships through the partnerships I have had, from mentors like Navratilova right to comrades like Stanislas Wawrinka and Stepanek, Martin Damm.
"Nurturing young talent when they first started like Cara Black or Mahesh (Bhupathi) or youngsters who have come through, creating history has been something that I have loved doing and to do it with all these different levels of players has been a great learning for me.
"I have been blessed to have a career that has spanned over so many years. If I don't play another day of tennis, I have no regret whatsoever because I have had a great career. I don't know who my 100th partner will be... It will be someone spectacular that is for sure," he said.
2016 Rio Olympics ambitions
Paes has already expressed his desire to play in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Asked if he has thought of playing till the age of 50, Paes said playing alongside Navratilova made him think so.
"Sure. Martina made me think of that. I played with Navratilova and I won Wimbledon with her when she was 49 years old, just couple of months short before her 50th birthday. So for me longevity and excellence and being a student of life is part of my ambitions, but at the same time as a man you have to take it one day at a time. Right now I am right at the crossroads of life where I am both personal and professional.
"There are lots of responsibilities that are there and I have to make sure that I fulfil those to the best that I can and then move forward," he said.
The Premier Tennis League will be played at the Deccan Gymkhana in Pune from November 27 to December 3, and Paes will be playing an exhibition mixed doubles match on December 2 and 3.