India’s Leander Paes won his eighth Grand Slam doubles title, second with his Czech partner Radek Stepanek (behind him) Photo: With presumed permission of Jay Mandal/Lexicon/On Assignment
I have a lurking suspicion that there are several clones of Jay Mandal on various photographic assignments. There is no other possible way to explain that Jay is everywhere. I have known Jay for over a quarter century and his ubiquity has baffled me for ever.
The latest assignment that Jay is on is the U.S. Open, which concludes today with the men’s singles final. I am told the U.S. Open does not start unless the organizers can confirm Jay’s presence in the press enclosure. I exaggerate, of course, but it could be true. Jay has been covering the U.S. Open since 1992 at Flushing Meadows in New York.
Living just three miles from Flushing Meadows might explain that Jay has unfailingly covered the Grand Slam tournament. But then how do you explain his presence thousands of miles away in the thick of the Amazonian forest or in Ahmedabad or Bangalore or Delhi or Cuba or Moscow or Rio or Islamabad or London or wherever shadowing all manners of people and situations?
As part of his itinerant life Jay has regularly photographed India’s Leander Paes, who won his eighth Grand Slam doubles title, second with his Czech partner Radek Stepanek.
Jay says this of Paes: “I have been photographing Paes since he started his first competition at New York’s Flushing Meadows in 1993. It has always been a treat to watch Leander playing tennis. No matter who he has been playing with as partner or against, he has been doing so with so much grace. It’s not an inflated comment to say that he is every photographer’s favorite "On Court" subject. That is because, he is so much fun to watch playing with all kinds of action with his trusted racket.”
Paes, playing in his 30th Grand Slam final, had already won the US Open title twice previously with Martin Damm in 2006 and Lukas Dlouhy in 2009.
The fourth seeds took just an hour and 12 minutes to dismantle their higher ranked opponents Austrian Alexander Peya and Brazil’s Bruno Soares 6-1, 6-3.
Paes, who has been a runner-up eight times in doubles and won six mixed doubles titles, joins a select few including women’s legend Martina Navrátilova – with whom he had won two mixed doubles Grand Slams- to have won a Grand Slam title at 40.
At 40, Paes is the oldest player to win the U.S. Open men’s doubles and there is nothing to suggest so far that he has lost much of his vigor.
Watching a doubles game requires one to rest one’s frame of reference and expectations of individual excellence. In a game that has become so much about singular accomplishments powered by extraordinary physical strengths and skills, doubles games are an acquired taste.
Paes lifts his doubles partner Stepanek after winning the title. Photo: With presumed permission of Jay Mandal/Lexicon/ On Assignment
Jay has tracked Paes since he was 20 and one should not be surprised if they grow older together, one in the center of the court and the other on the sidelines but both wielding the very extensions of their professional persona. One the racket and the other the camera.