"No, I never imagined playing at 40 and being the oldest Grand Slam champion. My coach and tennis guru Rich Leach and I am very blessed to have a great team. Rick won the US Open men's doubles in 1993. That was exactly 20 years ago and that was the first year I got to a Grand Slam semi-final. I was playing with Sebastian Lareau and Rick beat the Czech boys who beat us in the semi final," Paes told NDTV.
"Today, I dedicated the trophy to Rick's dad, Richard Leech, who is one of the greatest coaches of all time. He used to coach at the University of South California for years and he has been battling a few health issues for the last two weeks. He is real champion. I got a call from Richard saying that he is going to put Rick's (US Open) trophy from 20 years ago and my trophy together in the showcase. For me, these are the special people that I play for," the 40-year-old Tennis icon said.
He appreciated his doubles partner Radek Stepanek of Czech Republic and called him 'wonderful team-mate'.
"I guess when you have a great partner, it's a lot of fun. Radek (Stepanek) is a wonderful team-mate, he is one of the best partners I have ever had and especially this year (2013) has been a trying year for both of us and really to persevere together as a team and stand by each other through thick and thin and then to culminate at the US Open with a win is really wonderful," Paes said.
Paes said to 'age is just a number'.
"I think age is just a number. About 10 years ago, when I was 30, I went through a lot of adversity health wise and those years, I felt a little older than I do now. When you have a new lease on life, a second breath when you come back in, you realize how fragile life is. You live it with your heart. You live it with as much passion as you got in your soul. One of the things I love to teach to my daughter (seven-year-old Aiyana) is the way my parents and my coaches have taught me to become a champion human being as well," he said.
Speaking on 2016 Olympics Games, Paes said: "I have done six Olympics, why not a seventh?"
Paes and Stepanek won the US Open men's doubles title by defeating Austria's Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares of Brazil in the final match on Sunday.
The Indo-Czech pair defeated their opponents by 6-1, 6-3 margin.
Wishing Paes for winning the title, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: "Congratulations to Leander Paes for winning US Open Men's Doubles title with Radek Stepanek. We are proud of him."
Indian Tennis icon Mahesh Bhupathi said: "LP!!! 40?? Really??? Moving like he is 20.. Inspiring stuff #usopen2013"
Bollywood actor Anupam Kher posted on his Twitter homepage: "Congratulations and Jai Ho to Leander Paes-Radek Stepanek for winning US Open doubles title. I feel So Happy.:)"
--IBNS (Posted on 10-09-2013)