For close to a half a century, India hadn’t won an individual medal at the Summer Olympics, and it hardly looked like the draught were to end anytime soon and certainly it wasn’t expected to have come in Tennis. India hadn’t produced a tennis star in a generation and with the who’s who of the world top 10 in attendance, the odds weren’t really that great.
And then steps up a young, fiercely passionate Leander Paes – who put together a string of stunning performances to take the bronze medal for the country. It was the only medal India secured that year, but what a performance had Leander put in to secure it.
He got a walk over in the opening round against Richey Reneberg before getting the better of Nicholas Pereira. The pre-QFs against Thomas Enqvist of Sweden turned out to be a see-saw battle, before Leander gave himself a shot at glory with straight sets win over Renzo Furian of Italy in the QFs.
Up against home-favorite Andre Aggasi in the SFs, Leander fought hard in the opening set but eventually lost 6-7 3-6. For the bronze medal, Leander took on Brazilian Fernando Meligeni, and despite losing the opening set, he came back to win the next two securing India’s first individual medal at a Summer Olympics in 44 years.