Indian tennis legend Leander Paes was today appointed as the global brand ambassador of the Legendari Group, that owns the IPTL's Japan Franchise, for a period of three years starting 2016.
Legendari Group's association with Paes will commence from Chennai Open. In his role as brand ambassador, Paes will be part of #TeamLEGENDARIAthlete.
"The Legendari Group aims to utilise the power of brand Leander as a springboard to promote tennis and other growing sports across India and Asia. The Legendari Group will support Paes in every step towards achieving Olympic glory as he prepares to participate in the prestigious quadrennial event for a 7th consecutive time," a press release said.
"I am thrilled to grow my partnership with the Legendari Group. I am excited to associate with them to promote sports, especially tennis. It is an honour to be the first #LegendariAthlete, and I look forward to utilizing my abilities to drive the growth of sports as a way of life," Paes said.
Executive Chairman & Managing Director, Shanthan Reddy said, "Leander has inspired many generations of tennis players and sportsmen in our country, and across the world with his game. We are absolutely delighted with this opportunity, and wish him success at Rio 2016 and through the year.
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Asked what will he do, if he does not get the combination of his choice, Paes replied ,"I will continue my journey."
"No one can take my history away. Do what you want, my journey is my journey. I respect the game of tennis. I respect playing for India, tri-color flag, I respect playing for our people. My journey will remain mine no matter what other nonsense happens, it is for the people to answer."
Paes said he has already spoken to AITA officials about Rio selection.
"I have had couple of conversations with them already this year as far as the Rio Olympics go. I had made it clear that mixed doubles is a real true chance of winning a medal for India especially because of the hard court surface. Mixed doubles is a real chance for Sania and myself to win a medal. If we are not given the chance for whatever non-sensical reason there is, unfortunately the people and the flag and the country lose out on winning a medal. If that farce is going to play out again God help all of us."
Paes though felt that there were indications that Bopanna and Sania are planning to compete together.
"Such indications are always there. But, at the end of the day all of us in sporting fraternity know what happened in 2012. At that time, I felt that basically politics came in and played its part in a very dirty manner. That being said, it should not be there in sport. I know the people that were behind it and I am not going to name them."
Paes asserted that age should not a criteria when it comes to selection.
"It is not about age. Age has nothing to do with it. Martina Navratilova and Martina Hinges are still playing. Navratilova won a Grand Slam when she was 49 or 50 years old. So age is not the criteria. It is about history, experience and form and hence merit. In my opinion, the best team should be fielded and go forward. "
Paes also argued that Sania did not reach a single Grand Slam final in 2015 while he won three with Hingis.
"Sania is number one in the world in women's doubles. In mixed doubles she has not got into a final even (in 2015). Let us be very clear on this. And, I beat Rohan pretty convincingly at the US Open in mixed doubles and he was playing the ad side of the court."
Paes also made it clear that he would not retire after Rio Games irrespective of the result.
"I will be lying to you to say that I won't be tempted to retire if I win an Olympic medal at Rio. But also I will say that I work really hard on my fitness on my mind and to stop right in the middle of a season, is not my style. I am very strong on my commitments. When I commit to my partner that I am playing the whole season then I will play the whole season barring injury. I am a man of my word.