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Indian tennis player Leander Paes with olm McLaughlin, Salah Tahlak, Ramesh Cidambi and Sinead El Sibai cutting a cake during a fecilitation ceremony after his retirement at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Friday 28 February 2020. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Image Credit:

Dubai: The Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open paid a perfect tribute to one of the tournament’s long-time regulars Leander Paes.

Making his 20th appearance since the start of the men’s tournament in 1993, Paes was moved with an adoring crowd on centre court as he was joined by Colm McLoughlin, Ramesh Cidambi, Salah Tahlak and Sinead El Sibai from tournament owners and organisers, Dubai Duty Free.

Before cutting an attractive cake, Paes thanked the crowd in Dubai for their belief in him. “Sport is a huge vehicle that can entertain everyone and anyone. I am glad that I was able to use my sport to entertain you all through all of these years,” Paes told the crowd.

McLoughlin complimented the 46-year-old Indian for being a “true ambassador for Dubai and the Dubai Duty Free”. “Perhaps, not many may know this, but Leander has been closely involved with a lot of charity work for un-derpriviledged kids all over,” McLoughlin noted.

After the cake cutting, Paes went on to present framed T-shirts of his ‘One Final Roar’ tour that will conclude later this year. “I first told my team about my final year on the tour way back in September,” Paes recalled.

Paes has been on the ATP Tour for the past nearly three decades, and this year the Indian player decided to bring his chequered career to an end with his farewell tour aptly named ‘One Last Roar’.

During his 20 appearances in the men’s doubles in Dubai, Paes has won the title here twice — in 1998 with Mahesh Bhupathi and in 2003 with David Rikl. He has also finished runner-up on three occasions — in 2004 with Jonas Bjorkman, in 2010 with Lukas Dlouhy and in 2018 with James Cerretani.

On the international circuit, Paes has won an amazing 18 Grand Slam titles in the men’s and mixed doubles while picking up the year-ending ATP Tour Finals on four occasions.