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Leander Paes and Sania Mirza: For giving Indian tennis hope

'Sania and Leander have done a fantastic job for Indian tennis'

August 13, 2008 Tennis Correspondent Deepti Patwardhan assesses Indian tennis's Terrific Duo

Leander Paes suffered from convulsions as a child, had to give up contact sports and pick up a tennis racquet. Sania Mirza was turned down by a local coach as being too small to play tennis before she became the best player, by a long way, in the country.

Together, they have redefined the face of the sport in India.

Fit and fighting, patriotic and defiant, they have given the country a chance to cherish, celebrate and more importantly participate in a game that was once seen as being beyond the common man.

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"Sania and Leander have done a fantastic job for Indian tennis. By performing so well on the world stage they have brought attention, light on this great nation of ours," says Davis Cupper Prakash Amritraj.

"Leander will be remembered as a true patriot, one who has served his country with undying devotion," Vishal Uppal says of his former team-mate.

"Leander has kept the Indian flag flying high for the past 19 years. He has brought out the best in him whenever he has played for the country. Players like him come very rarely."

While Leander took over the baton from India's tennis dynasties, the Krishnans and the Amritrajs, Sania almost pioneered the Indian woman's cause.

"I think Sania represents every Indian female athlete who has tried to make it in professional sport, but has failed due to various reasons," adds Uppal.

"She has broken all barriers for Indian women and has encouraged many young girls to take up to tennis. She has shown that Indian women not only can play sport, but can also make a mark on the world stage."

Isha Lakhani, Sania's Fed Cup teammate, says the Hyderabadi lady has inspired an entire generation to take up tennis.

"I can see for myself that more and more girls are picking up tennis, thanks to Sania. I think it's a great achievement to break into the top-30 and stay thereabouts for so long."

Leander Paes's photograph: Kristian Dowling/Getty Images. Sania Mirza's Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Also read: 'Leander plays above his ability' | A chat with Sania
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