‘I am a positive person’

Sania Mirza... looking forward to playing again.-K. GOPINATHAN

Sania Mirza wants to get back to where she once was on the WTA Tour. “I wish to get back that winning feeling. I want to make winning a habit,” she says in a chat with Kalyan Ashok.

Sania Mirza is decidedly a self confessed movie buff and her recent favourite dialogue is from the Bollywood flick, ‘Om Shanti Om’, where the hero, Shah Rukh Khan, says “Kehte hain agar tum kisi cheez ko purey dil se chahe tho, sare kainath woh tuje milne ki koshish mein lag jatein hain.” (Meaning, if you desire anything with the whole heart, the entire Universe gets into the task of realising it for you). Sania’s desire right now is to get ba ck to the WTA Tour and start winning again. And certainly, she believes in Shah Rukh’s dialogue which appears to have a positive effect on her.

After a bright start in 2008, when she made the quarterfinals of the Hobart tournament and reached the third round of the Australian Open — where she also made the mixed doubles final with Mahesh Bhupathi — things turned gloomy for the Indian tennis diva in the later part of the season. The wrist injury that she suffered twice saw Sania miss most of the action, including the French Open and the US Open. She also had to retire from the first round of the Olympics in Beijing besides missing a host of other events.

Sania’s ranking too slid from an all time high of No. 27 (August 2007) to the current 101, but the spunky girl is determined to regain lost glory and be back at her best in 2009.

Training at Tennis Village in Bangalore along with Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna, a fitter and faster Sania showed the same old passion for hard work and a burning desire to get back to where she belonged — in the top 30 of the WTA Tour.

In an interview with Sportstar, Sania spoke of her testing times in the 2008 season and her hopes for the season ahead.

Excerpts:

Question: Sania, how fit are you now after coming back from that wrist injury? Are you physically ready for the season ahead?

Answer: I was feeling fit even when I was injured. It was just my wrist. I continued working on the rest of my body. The work I’ve put in now has been great. I feel a lot fitter, and I feel I can easily last two or three hours on the court. I am looking forward to playing again.

I don’t feel any pressure though, and I don’t think there are any expectations. I just want to be back in action.

What did the forced absence in 2008 teach you and how did you take it?

I’ve learned to be patient as a person. I’m generally very impatient, but after I suffered the wrist injury, I didn’t even know what was wrong and it took a long while to find the right doctor and right cure. I then learned the virtues of patience.

During that phase, I couldn’t watch the US Open, which had always been my favourite hunting ground. And after the Olympics, I didn’t leave my house for two or three weeks, I didn’t want to meet or see anyone. It took a lot of effort for my family to get me out. I went through many lows professionally. But personally, I got to do a lot of things I hadn’t done in a long time, like sleeping in my bed for two months at a stretch, spending quality time with my family, staying up with friends till 4 a.m. and talking a lot of normal things... I am a confident and positive person. I want to take as many positives as I can from the year. Now that I have got over that, I am feeling fine and training hard for the season ahead. It’s nice to be back and I am enjoying every moment of it.

Anything that you wish to do differently in the new season?

I wish I don’t get injured again! (laughs). That will be a big wish for the season. I am not looking ahead; what matters to me is the present and I am enjoying every moment of it. I was in Chennai recently to receive the honorary doctorate (from the MGR University). I soaked myself in that moment and I did not think of anything else. I’ve learned to live in the moment. I’m not looking at the Australian Open or the whole lot of tournaments ahead even though it’s great to know that I’ve made it to the main draw of the Australian Open despite not playing for four months.

Sania Mirza prepares to get on court for a practice session in Bangalore.-K. GOPINATHAN

Your record suggests that you are pretty good in doubles. How does doubles figure in your scheme of things for the new season?

I look at doubles as a great back-up. I’m too young to take a decision on that. Doubles comes naturally to me. It’s a lot of fun and sometimes when you lose early in singles and you end up making the doubles final, it’s good for your confidence. You know, I have won with different partners and so it is easy for me to fit into doubles.

What do you think of the current WTA Tour and the field?

There is a lot of depth in women’s tennis now. It’s getting tougher everyday. Justine Henin was great and a class apart — she dominated the circuit for two years. But now, it’s getting increasingly difficult, both physically and mentally, for one or two players to dominate the scene. The players are getting more and more powerful every day. Someone like Ana Ivanovic loses early in the US Open to a rank outsider. It did not happen so often in the past, but now it’s happening. There are girls, whom I have not even heard of, making waves now. It is tough out there, especially winning the No.1 slot.

How do you wish to start the new season?

I wish to get back that winning feeling. I want to make winning a habit. When you’ve been out of the competition for as long as I have been, you lose that feeling. So, I will play to win and other than that I don’t wish to visualise how the year would go.

How does it feel having received a doctorate from the Dr. MGR University?

I am honoured to receive the doctorate. It goes to show that whatever good work you do gets recognised. You know, I had to make a tough choice between tennis and academics. I was a good student, scoring high marks in languages. In fact, I passed both the Standard X and XII examinations in first class. I was dreaming of becoming a doctor. When I am done with tennis, may be I will get back to academics and major in psychology.