Practising his strokes for over seven million times has given him an unforgettable muscle memory and an uncompromising diet has kept his enviable fitness intact in an astonishing 25-year long career but Leander Paes is not training the way he used to train 20 years ago.
The 43-year-old has just finished another season in his glorious career and he is not finished yet. Rather, he has set himself a new target taking his Grand Slam tally to 20.
Passion for the game and a knack for creating history has kept him going but it also involves pain of hard work that may become difficult to sustain year after year.
But the legendary athlete keeps himself motivated and continues to find ways to train and hone his body in a way that he can be at par with the younger lot.
Never in his career, Paes suffered a major injury that stopped him from playing. Though a few minor injuries such as a rolled ankle have troubled him in the past.
So, how has he trained over the years to get such supreme fitness?
“Now it s very different than how I used to train 20 years ago, Paes, winner of 18 Grand Slam titles, told PTI in an interview.
“20 years ago I was trying to get lot of muscle memory, which means I had to hit 50-75 serves every day. Sometime kick serves on the ad court sometimes slice serves on the deuce court. Sharp serve down the T and a low backhand volley. I had to get 3 million repetitions into all the parts of the body, so they remember it. So that when I am under pressure, that repetition happens automatically. Muscle memory means when I am playing Wimbledon semifinals, and I am under pressure serving at 4-5, you don t choke,” he explained.
And what does he do now?
“Now I have to protect myself from overuse injuries.
There is a lot more emphasis on fitness and rehab. When I was younger I was putting seven hours on the court a day. Now, I am putting less hours on the court, so that I protect certain joints, like the rotator cuffs, the knees, the lower back, he said.