I enjoy challenges — Sania

Sania with husband Shoaib Malik. Sania has made the entire country proud with her achievement, says Malik.-V.V. SUBRAHMANYAM

The Hyderabadi seems to have mastered the art of fighting back from adversity every time she is written off, writes V. V. Subrahmanyam.

It was a moment to cherish for the indefatigable Sania Mirza. The 25-year-old star tennis player from India scripted another defining moment when in the company of Mahesh Bhupathi she clinched the French Open mixed doubles title, to become the only Indian woman tennis player to win two Grand Slam titles.

A remarkable achievement, given the fact that she had to overcome many a traumatic moment — both on and off the court. “There were days when I was hopeless and was left wondering whether I could ever hold a racquet in my lifetime again after the wrist injury,” recalled Sania Mirza.

The Hyderabadi seems to have mastered the art of fighting back from adversity every time she is written off. “I enjoy these kinds of challenges. Definitely, winning makes a lot of difference. And this French Open mixed doubles title is special like any Grand Slam win,” she said.

Sania was delighted that she could bounce back after her third surgery, to win the 2012 French Open mixed doubles title. “The focus now shifts to the London Olympics. Yes, now I am optimistic of getting a wild card and we two (Mahesh and she) should be playing there,” she said before leaving for London from Paris to take part in the warm-up events ahead of Wimbledon.

“I think I have come a long way in learning how to play on the red clay of Europe — a surface I was least comfortable on when I started my career,” the star performer remarked. “This mixed doubles title is special given the embarrassing loss in the women's doubles,” said Sania, who entered the French Open on a high by winning her 14th WTA title when she clinched the doubles title in the Brussels Open.

“But for the doubles loss in Paris, it has been highly satisfying. One of the high points was when I notched up my 500th win (excluding mixed doubles, Fed Cup, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games). That was yet another unbelievable feeling, for, when I started off I never ever thought that I would go thus far,” Sania said.

“More importantly, I think we have served a reminder that we are the team to beat in mixed doubles. No doubt, each day is a new day in tennis but as I said we have made it clear that we are the team to beat,” a delighted Sania said.

The Indian who won her second mixed doubles Grand Slam title (the first one was also with Mahesh in the 2009 Australian Open), said there was a unique experience and a great sense of satisfaction with a Grand Slam win. “Yes, the fact that I had come back after my third surgery to win a Grand Slam title is some sort of an incredible feeling,” Sania said.

Looking back at the French Open title, Sania felt that she and Mahesh played the best tennis in the quarterfinal against Petchka-Bryan. “That gave us a lot of confidence and the gut feeling that we are in with a real chance. But still, even in the final we had to play our best to clinch the title as the opponents were very confident after their magnificent semifinal win. I think Mahesh should be as jubilant in winning his 12th Grand Slam title as I am in winning my second one,” she added.

Sania, India's finest woman tennis player ever, is now in the mood to enjoy the French Open triumph rather than think too far like completing a career Grand Slam (by winning the Wimbledon and the U.S. Open titles too). “Let me enjoy this great moment. Let the feeling of being a second-time Grand Slam champion sink in completely,” she said.

For his part, Sania's husband and former Pakistan cricket captain Shoaib Malik, who watched the match at his wife's residence in the city, said Sania had made the entire country proud with her achievement. “I wish both Sania and Mahesh should keep playing together. They are good friends, understand each other and have the ability to win a few more Grand Slams,” he said.

“Definitely, an Olympic medal is the next big dream for Sania. I am sure she will realise that also if the Indian Tennis Federation ensures that she get wild card,” Shoaib added.