Looking back with satisfaction

Sania Mirza with the trophy after winning the Al Habtoor Challenger in Dubai recently. She beat Serbia's Bajana Jovanovski 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 in the final.-PTI

“The best part is that the hunger for big success is back. All that I am looking forward to in 2011 is a full season without any injury,” says Sania Mirza in a chat with V. V. Subrahmanyam.

“For someone who was almost written off in 2010, I think I proved a point or two with my performances in the last three months of the season, and there is no better feeling than finishing the year on a high by winning the Al Habtoor Challenger Open in Dubai recently,” said the Indian tennis star, Sania Mirza.

Looking back at 2010, Sania, in an exclusive interview to Sportstar, said there were moments when she even wondered whether she would be able to play tennis again. “It was so frustrating because of the injury break. Nothing seemed to be going right. Then, there was all that happened with regard to my marriage (to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik). But frankly, the last three months of 2010, when I won the silver medal at the Delhi Commonwealth Games and then the bronze in the Asian Games in Guangzhou, gave me immense satisfaction,” she reflected.

“The best part is that the hunger for big success is back. All that I am looking forward to in 2011 is a full season without any injury. This has not happened since 2005,” said Sania.

“The focus for me right now is to be fully fit since I have a strong feeling that my game is back. The forehand, my surprise weapon when I broke into the WTA Tour, is clicking. There is no discomfort with the injured wrist (right hand),” she added.

Interestingly, Sania, during her brief visit to Hyderabad, was seen working with her Canadian trainer Rob Steckley on the tennis courts for hours. “Essentially Rob is good as he is working on the nitty-gritty of some technical things and my fitness, and I am enjoying the stint with him,” she said. When asked what her realistic goals were, Saina said: “I can still play big tennis for three to four years if there are no injury scares. So, my first goal is to break into the top 100 to get direct entries for the Grand Slams.”

How does she compare her current game with say 2005 when she hit a new high for an Indian woman player?

“Frankly, I am a more mature and complete player now. Physically and mentally, I am much stronger now. If you remember, in my first year in the big league, my forehand was a huge surprise packet,” explained Sania, ranked No. 141 in the world. She is World No. 60 in doubles.

“Well, for anyone it is not easy to keep winning every week. But strangely people start pulling you down if you don't match their very high expectations,” she explained.

“As I look back, one of my most memorable experiences off the court has been my marriage to Shoaib. And on court, the medals in the CWG and the Asian Games though it would have been great had I won the gold in at least one of them,” said Sania.

Talking of Sachin Tendulkar, Sania, who is an acknowledged fan of the batting maestro, said that he is not only a great sportsperson but a thorough gentleman. “I remember a few years ago, he sent me a car as a present on winning the Junior Wimbledon doubles title. Even now he is so humble and keeps things so simple. Perhaps that is why even God likes people like him. Great gift to India itself,” she added.