Not over yet: Sania

Sania Mirza… “I just hope to win one or two more Slams before I stop playing.”-

Sania Mirza is planning to focus more on the doubles now. “It is just that the body is finding it extremely difficult after three surgeries, two major ankle injuries and one wrist injury. They have forced me to rethink on playing all three events,” she says in a chat with V.V. Subrahmanyam.

Sania Mirza, 26, doesn’t believe her tennis career is over yet. As she prepares for the demanding season ahead, India’s best ever woman tennis player wants to take it event by event. Back in her hometown, Hyderabad, after a long gap, Sania spent a few hours at the Fateh Maidan SAAP Tennis Complex, training under the watchful eyes of her father and mentor Imran Mirza.

“Well, if you talk about the next Olympics, I am not sure now whether I will be there or not. Highly unlikely, honestly, but you never know. Stranger things have happened in my career, like the Grand Slam title I won (the French Open mixed doubles crown with Mahesh Bhupathi) after getting married (to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik). You might still see me in Rio (the venue of the 2016 Olympics). If my body allows me, I’d love to be there,” she said in a chat with Sportstar.

According to Sania, tennis is a very demanding sport where one cannot take a break of one or two months unless forced by an injury. “You have to be on the move always and keep improving; you can’t sit back and prepare only for a few big events,” she explained.

The only Indian woman to win two Grand Slam titles (the mixed doubles at the Australian Open and the French Open), Sania said she has been feeling the rigours of the hectic schedule of late. “Now, my body might not be able to withstand the demands that I used to face comfortably, say a few years ago,” she said. “My body will not be able to take that kind of schedule — playing the singles, doubles and mixed doubles — anymore. The recovery time (for me) now after every big tournament is quite big.”

Looking back at the last one year, Sania said she was very satisfied. “Definitely, it could have been great had I won an Olympic medal. But missing it doesn’t mean I did not achieve anything big. Obviously, the French Open mixed doubles title is a big high for me.

“Unfortunately, we have developed a mind-set wherein people think that unless you win a Grand Slam title, you are not playing well. Mind you, I entered three Grand Slam semifinals in the last 12 months besides winning the Pattaya, Dubai and Indian Wells titles, to name some of the big events,” Sania said.

How difficult will it be for Sania to motivate herself for the season ahead considering the fact that she failed to win a medal at the Olympics?

“That is not something that I think about when I enter the court. I repeat, it would have been a very proud moment if I had won, but my goal is to represent India in as many events as possible and bring laurels to the country,” she said.

Is she going to focus more on doubles now?

“Right now, it seems so. It is just that the body is finding it extremely difficult after three surgeries, two major ankle injuries and one wrist injury. They have forced me to rethink on playing all three events,” Sania said.

Talking of her post wrist injury period, Sania said, “Frankly, I look at it as my ‘second life’. I never thought that I would play in a Grand Slam final after that serious injury (she was out of action for six months and could not even hold a racket for long). So, to win one Grand Slam title and make three semifinal appearances in the majors is something I am really proud of. “I just hope to win one or two more Slams before I stop playing tennis.”

Asked about her most memorable moment so far, Sania said, “Winning the 2003 Junior Wimbledon doubles title. Not in terms of achievement but because I was there on the big stage and won it. Everything changed after that in my life, I was recognised everywhere.”

Does she have any regrets?

“I have no regrets as long as I know I am giving more than 100 per cent. It is a huge blessing to play the sport,” said Sania, who reached her career-best singles ranking of World No. 27 in 2007.