By Abhishek Mehrotra
After a couple of days trying to get hold of him, I finally managed to do so on Saturday, after Paes had won his US Open mixed doubles first-round with partner Elena Vesnina. Earlier, on Friday, Paes had won his men's doubles match as well with Radek Stepanek.
He's 70 minutes late for our interview and immediately apologises saying, "Sorry, I was trying to organise things. I've got two matches tomorrow [He's playing both his second round matches on Sunday]". With that, we settle down for a quick chat.
Q: Well done on both your wins. How's the body holding up?
A: I feel really good. I love playing in New York. The conditions are nice and the body is healthy. I've been playing a lot of tennis so I need to make sure I recover and rejuvenate well. I've been going for 13-14 weeks, so it's been a long summer. After this I get a break which I'm looking forward to. Other than that - I'm seeing the ball well, hitting it well - just got to keep having fun.
Q: You've been around for more than 20 years. How has your fitness regime changed during that time?
A: The game is evolving so fast, the equipment is evolving so fast - the athletes are becoming bigger, taller, stronger, so I keep having to evolve my style of playing, because it is based on speed.
Most of the game is evolving in power and equipment. So I'm keeping up with the equipment but at the same time my speed is what really wins me matches. I cut the speed of my opponents' recovery. That means I have to be that much fitter.
I'm very lucky to have a great time around me. My dad, who was a professional athlete, is my doctor and has been with me my whole life. My fitness trainer Dave Herman has been with me 21 years, my coach Rick Leach, who has been number one in the world, he has won nine Grand Slams [in doubles and mixed doubles], has been with me 19 years. I do yoga and meditation every day; my yoga coach Sanjay Singh has been with me 22 years. I wouldn't be who I am without these guys.
Q: And how have doubles tactics changed in the time you've been around?
A: It's quite different now than it was 10 years ago. Then there were doubles specialists. Now there are singles guys who pays doubles, there are singles guys who only play singles and there are doubles specialists too.
So when you're playing a doubles specialist, it's old school doubles - volleying, angles, all that stuff. But the guys who're really good are the guys who play singles and doubles - like [Philipp] Petzschner, Stepanek. Andy Murray is an unbelievable doubles player, Nadal plays doubles, Federer is a genius so he's unbelievable.
So with guys who play singles and doubles, you have to plan certain tactics and certain strategies to be able to rally with them. Most doubles players don't like to rally, they like to come in and knock off volleys. So with these guys who play singles, you' have to be able to stay in the rally with them, yet out-manoeuvre them with doubles play. It's very interesting.
Q: Why do you think doubles don't have the same high-profile that singles do?
A: I think it's a lot better now, you see a lot of singles guys playing doubles, you see a lot of matches on showcourts [the bigger courts]. Look at the Olympics - how many singles guys were in the doubles in the later rounds. So I think doubles is doing well for itself compared to five years ago, and I see it getting better.
Back in the day, when I started, it was very high-profile as well. You saw [Stefan] Edberg playing doubles [Edberg won three Grand Slam doubles titles in his career], [John] McEnroe too [McEnroe won a total of 10 Grand Slam doubles and mixed doubles titles]. Courier, Agassi, Sampras, Ivanisevic played some doubles. Federer has won a Masters' series event [in Miami 2003. he and Max Mirnyi beat Paes and David Rikl in the final], Nadal and [Marc] Lopez have won Palm Springs [the BNP Paribas Masters tournament in Indian Wells] two or three times.
So I think doubles is being appreciated a lot more. When you look at club tennis around the world, most club tennis players are doubles players, and that's why it's appreciated. The real die-hard tennis fans love the doubles. You can always see it around the grounds wherever you go.
Q: You've had over 90 doubles partners during your career. Why such a huge number - is it because you want to keep things fresh, or is there some other reason?
A: I was definitely trying to keep it fresh. I was trying to learn from a lot of people. I'm a student of life; I'm a student of my profession. If you've looked at the partners I've picked over the years, instinctively I've picked partners who could teach me things and learn things [from me]. People who're also students of the game.
So if you look at the different partners I've had, yes, I've been the leader in most of the teams - but I've also learnt from them - technique wise, strategy-wise, fitness-wise, lifestyle-wise. And for me, that's been the most fun - I've had some great partners over the years. I've really enjoyed playing with a lot of different really cool people, but at the same time they've been phenomenal players.
Q: Speaking of phenomenal players, the first one who comes to mind is Martina Navratilova. What was, and is your relationship with her like?
A: Everybody knows about Martina as an athlete - one of the best female athletes on the planet. But for me what makes Martina special is that she's one of the best friends I've ever had.
Unconditional support both ways. We've been through a lot of life experiences which are similar. We have a similar understanding of life. We have two amazing confidantes in each other. We know if there's some problem I can't solve or an obstacle I need to hurdle, I can go to her for help. And it's the same for her.
Q: What do you think of the current state of Indian tennis?
A: It's getting better. It's gotten better in the last 20 years since I first started. The limelight of tennis in India is a lot more. People are watching the game a lot more, it's on television a lot more.
And I think, and I can speak for only myself, that I've had an amazing fanbase over the years. I've amazing fans who love what I do, who have supported me unconditionally through all sorts of ups and downs.
I went through a rough time during the Olympics and it's amazing the support I got from the Indian public. They're the people I play for. Now I'm 39, going on 40 in another 10 months and those are the people who keep motivating me.
Q: You mentioned you'll be turning 40 next year. What are your plans for the future?
A: Keep going! Rio [the 2016 Olympic Game, to be held in Rio de Janerio] is quite close, isn't it? I've heard it's a beautiful place!