Spelling out things in black and white

Cara Black...totally dedicated to tennis.-V.V. SUBRAHMANYAM

Zimbabwean Cara Black, Sania Mirza’s doubles partner, was training at the Indian’s tennis facility in Hyderabad, when V. V. Subrahmanyam caught up with her.

She is out to redefine levels of sporting excellence for all those who are well past 30 in their life. And, the 10-time Grand Slam winner Cara Black of Zimbabwe has exhibited in the first few days of her training stint at the Sania Mirza Tennis Academy (SMTA) in Hyderabad some rare traits which suggest why she is such a champion doubles player.

The 34-year-old Cara first surprised the Mirzas — Imran and Sania — by driving straight from the airport to the tennis courts on the day she arrived and had a two-hour long training session right away with the 19-year-old national player Byreddy Sai Saran Reddy.

Such things are never easy for someone her age, especially given the fact that this training stint also means that she has to stay away from her 19-month-old baby boy. “It is really tough to be away from him. But, well, this is a demanding circuit and you have to be at your best right through. There is absolutely no scope to be complacent. And for me there is no better feeling than winning a Grand Slam title,” starts off Cara in this exclusive chat with Sportstar.

But hasn’t she won 10 Grand Slam titles? “Oh! I realised what I missed while being away from tennis when I had to take a break to be blessed with the kid. It was difficult to think of life without tennis,” says Cara with a big smile.

This Zimbabwean gently traces her early journey in the world of tennis, touching on the troubled times back home. “Yes, there were hard times then. But that is the greatness of sport that it keeps you away from those things and helps you focus on what you love the most — in my case playing tennis,” Cara analyses.

Every day since she arrived, Cara has become a sort of a phenomenon at the Academy for all those who are struggling to master the basics. Sania reminds us that she is terrific in volleys. And proof of this was too evident when the Zimbabwean trained for hours on the courts daily.

Why choose SMTA to train for two weeks? “Sania is an incredible player and I am very keen to win a Grand Slam with her. Exactly for this reason, we have decided to train together before the next month’s Australian Open. Not many doubles teams across the world can afford this sort of privilege,” says Cara even as she is amazed with the world-class facilities at the SMTA.

“I enjoy training on these wonderful courts. More than anything else, the ambience and is terrific to train. I would love to keep coming back whenever it is possible,” says the biggest tennis star from abroad ever to visit the Academy.

The multiple Grand Slam winner’s training sessions, in terms of commitment and hard work, left the trainees at the SMTA, who are only half her age, realising how much effort was needed to be a champion player. “It is amazing the amount of hard work she puts in despite being such a great player in Grand Slams. We have still a long way to go,” said one of the young talents, Abdullah.

On her partnership with Sania, the Zimbabwean says spontaneously that the Indian is an unbelievable player and hits the ball so hard that some of the women players on the circuit are really scared of playing her.

Cara with Rohan Bopanna at the Sania Mirza Tennis Academy.-V.V. SUBRAHMANYAM

“I have seen players really worried about taking on Sania in doubles. And my role is that of a cherry-picker,” she says with a big smile reflecting her modesty. The Sania-Cara pair won two WTA titles — Tokyo and the China Opens — in the space of 10 days in September.

For someone who has achieved so much, Cara insists that no one can be a complete player. “You have to keep improving and there is no better way to achieve this than by hours of long practice. For this you have to have passion for the sport and I am still hungry to win many more Grand Slams,” she says, while taking a break from her hectic training schedule.

“We (she and Sania) are not going to sit back on the two WTA titles we have won. We are dreaming big and want to chase them successfully too. I believe we have the ability and we only have to get the right things at the right time. We have decided to play together in the four Grand Slams next year,” says the amazingly-fit Cara.

“It will be foolish to predict what will happen in the Australian Open or for that matter in any Grand Slam. Our job is to work hard, attain the level of excellence desired to produce the kind of results for which we are pairing together,” she says to a query. “We are definitely enjoying the partnership and we complement each other pretty well on the court too. I have great faith in Sania. We are going to work hard and be patient so that the results will take care of themselves,” Cara explained.

Referring to her grand comeback after being blessed with a baby boy, a smiling Cara reminds one that she had to take a two-year break for that. “I am really pleased with the way things have gone on my comeback ,” says this veteran of the women’s circuit.

Significantly, Cara also reminds one that she has never had an injury break and rarely missed a tournament on the circuit in the last 14 years. “I am fortunate with this and no wonder I don’t have any retirement plans as of now. I will love to take it year by year. I am enjoying being back in the circuit and not keen to think of anything else,” she asserts.

What about other plans? “It is great to be some sort of an inspiration for many youngsters back home where there were hard times. But that is the greatness of sport, it makes people forget unpleasant things. Yes, I want to do something like Sania has done (setting up an Academy). But, I am not sure whether I can do it or not. Let us hope and see,” Black says.

“I am always looking to improve in many areas and this makes it more exciting as I train in a different way every day. The next few weeks we will work out tactics to produce the desired results,” says Cara before driving back to Sania’s home.