'Every time I play in India, there is some problem'

P. V. SIVAKUMAR

“There were times when I felt that one has to handle these kind of things when someone achieves something in sport. But, it is not all that easy any more,” said Sania Mirza of her decision to skip Bangalore Open. V. V. Subramanyam reports.

For someone who thrived on pressure — on and off the court — Sania Mirza seemed to have finally succumbed to that. In a stunning revelation on her return from the Australian Open and the Federation Cup in Pattaya, the 21-year-old tennis sensation from Hyderabad declared that she will not be playing in the WTA Bangalore Open scheduled next month. The reason was even more stunning! “Every time I play in India, there is some problem or the other. It is becom ing increasingly difficult to handle them. However best you try to keep your mind off from them, they keep coming back to you. After all, I am a normal girl for my age,” were the remarks from the World No. 29.

This decision by Sania is perceived by her family members as a culmination of the frustration at being repeatedly haunted by one controversy or the other. “Yes, there were times when I felt that one has to handle these kind of things when someone achieves something in sport. But, it is not all that easy any more,” Sania remarked.

Significantly, Sania also reminded that she had been advised by her managers (Globosport, headed by Mahesh Bhupathi) to pull out of the Bangalore Open. This is even more perplexing for the tennis lovers in India. In fact, the gifted player had even contemplated quitting the sport recently.

“Yes, it was true that I did think of quitting the sport. I was left wondering whether giving off your best for your country’s pride on a tennis court is worth it,” Sania exclaimed in an agitated mood. “That is why, I repeat, I was finding it extremely difficult to handle these controversies,” she added. But more importantly, Sania had overcome that traumatic phase to continue playing. “Right now, I am focussed on tennis and let’s put that issue behind,” is her cryptic reply to another query.

Talking about her fitness, Sania says that she hopes to be fit for the Doha and the Dubai Opens after a two-week lay-off following the hamstring ligament tear. “The pain is much better now. I should be okay very soon,” she added. She also said that she would play with Mahesh Bhupathi in the mixed doubles through the year 2008. “It is a great feeling to be in the Grand Slam mixed doubles final in Melbourne. I am still growing in the circuit,” was her observation on the experience.

When asked whether she is planning to hire a travelling coach, Sania countered: “Do I need one? I am comfortable with the way things are going. All I need is to focus on fitness and I am sure that is being taken care of adequately.”

Commenting on her game, the Hyderabadi reminded that her backhand has improved a lot though she still loves to play that awesome forehand frequently.

Looking back at her match against Venus Williams in the third round of the Australian Open, Sania confessed that the American’s big serves had a bearing in the end result. “But, it was a very close match and I think I played some stunning strokes,” remarked the Indian tennis celebrity with a smile. “Yes, I do accept that serve is my weakness,” she added.

On being ranked Asia No.1, Sania feels that is a huge honour and one step closer to realising her dream of breaking into the top 10 in the world. “This ranking gives you a feeling of being one of the best in the world. Obviously, I cannot say how long it will take for me to achieve that target. But, I will not be found wanting in commitment. All I am looking for is an injury-free season ahead,” she concluded.