Sania Mirza: I feel I can still compete for a few more years at the highest level

The Indian tennis ace speaks about competing in her fourth Olympic Games, partnering with Ankita Raina and more.

Heading into her fourth Olympics, Mirza will look to clinch her first ever medal at the prestigious event.   -  V.V. SUBRAHMANYAM

For someone who redefined the levels of excellence in the world of women’s tennis from India, 34-year-old Sania Mirza is all geared up to chase one more goal — an Olympic medal.

The six-time Grand Slam-winner, making her fourth Olympics appearance, will take part in the women’s doubles competition, partnering Ankita Raina in the Tokyo Games.

Ahead of the Olympics, Sania speaks to Sportstar on a range of issues...

How do you look at the Tokyo Olympics?

I consider it a great honour and privilege to be representing my country for the fourth time in the Olympics in Tokyo.

You are only the second Indian woman athlete to take part in four Olympics. How do you feel?

Yes, it is quite amazing that when I started out in tennis almost three decades ago, it was all about dreaming of winning a Grand Slam. I had never imagined I would one day jointly hold the record of most appearances in Olympics by an Indian woman. This is another record
that I will be personally very proud of!

How good have the preparations been in the run-up to the Games?

It has been reasonably good under the prevailing pandemic conditions but ideally I would have liked to have got a few more matches under my belt before heading into the Olympics.

How different will it be from the previous editions especially given the pandemic restrictions?

It is obviously going to feel very different without spectators. And the stringent rules and restrictions are definitely making things more difficult.

How was it playing in the first Grand Slam at Wimbledon on your comeback after a long break because of the pandemic?

Wimbledon is always very special and 20 years after I first stepped onto the grasscourts of Wimbledon I still feel excited to play there.

What was the critical evaluation you have made about your strengths and weaknesses after the Wimbledon?

After playing on a regular basis in a few more tournaments and with the right partner, I feel I can still compete for a few more years at the highest level.

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How different will your doubles combination be in the Olympics as compared to the previous editions?

Ankita has been ranked in the top-100 in doubles and that is something none of my earlier women partners have managed.

Do you feel the lack of experience  of your partner Ankita Raina at the highest level can be a challenge?

Yes, of course, it is never easy for any player to immediately adjust to playing against the best in the world and we will definitely need to punch way beyond our weight to make an impression at the Tokyo Olympics.

What can be the biggest challenge in Tokyo as you chase your dream of an Olympic medal?

It is the one achievement that has eluded me and I will definitely cherish an Olympic medal. But I've always believed in destiny and giving everything my best shot. So, if I don't win that medal, it will still not be the end of the world for me.

What makes you going even now and still be a force to reckon with?

Passion and love for tennis has always been my driving force and it still is.

Being a mother now obviously means special. The joy of watching your son Izhaan grow will also be some sort of an inspiration to chase bigger goals even now?

Yes, he is now old enough to enjoy watching me play. I hope he will be proud of his mother when he's grown up.

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