Sania Mirza hits the court to train for season 2020

After a two-year gap, Sania is eyeing a fruitful return to the big league in the Hobart International and the Australian Open come January 2020.

Six-time Grand Slam winner Sania Mirza during a training session in Hyderabad on Saturday.   -  V.V. SUBRAHMANYAM

 

Sania Mirza is known for comebacks. More than a decade ago, a career-threatening wrist injury almost put an end to her singles career at the highest level. But the champion tennis player from Hyderabad returned to dominate the women's doubles circuit. She won six Grand Slams to be the best-ever women's tennis player from India.

Now, on another comeback trail after a two-year break post the birth of her son Izhaan, Sania is eyeing a fruitful return to the big league in the Hobart International and the Australian Open next month.

After a grinding training session here on Saturday, the 33-year-old Sania shared her thoughts. She is excited and nervous at the same time.

She is set to partner Ukraine's Nadiia Kichenok in the Hobart International and then, with Rajeev Ram of US in the mixed doubles in the Australian Open next month.

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“I could have easily hung up my boots, enjoyed my life. Instead of struggling to play the game for three hours under the sun like I did today,” says Sania in a chat with Sportstar after a session with Davis Cupper Saketh Myneni, Olympian Prarthana Thombare and young talent G. Sai Karteek Reddy.

“But honestly, I am enjoying my grind even today and glad to put myself back in this kind of position and be able to compete. Something to be very proud off,” she says.

“I love playing tennis. Frankly, I still felt that I have lot more tennis left in me. It was not a plan all along definitely. For there were so many unknowns when you are blessed with a baby. Like how emotional you will be, how physically challenging it will be, how your body reacts,” says Sania.

“So, there was no timeline to take this call. Just needed time to see Izhaan to grow up. Now, he is walking, a bit more independent and so I can leave him and train for three hours. But, the big issue is how long I can do this,” she says.

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“Passion for the sport is what drives me to a tennis court. And it is very important for me to give the right message always. You all know I always tried to do the right things and stand up for those. So, I feel as a woman and someone who is looked up it is my responsibility to set an example,” says Sania.

“After achieving so much as an athlete, getting married, blessed with a boy, I wanted to show that you can still follow your dream. It doesn’t make you a bad mother,” adds the champion tennis player.

“I remember many posting replies on my Instagram handle that after being blessed with a baby, they were not able to go to a gym for three years or something like that. So, I wanted to be some sort of inspiration to all those people,” Sania says.

On the biggest challenges, she says, “Luckily I have solid family support. This has been the easier part of my journey so far. And losing 26 kg in four to five months, and starting from negatives — not even zero — when your body completely changes, you lose all your muscles, it was never easy,” Sania explains.

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“Definitely, now when I look back, I feel proud from where I have come thus far. Honestly, I have no set goals like wanting to win this title or the other. I want to see whether I will be able to compete at the highest level or not,” she said.

“Certainly, Tokyo Olympics is at the back of my mind. And it will be great if I can make it to my what would be fourth Olympics,” she says with a smile. “But, again that is not something which is my immediate goal. I have to see how my body reacts, behaves after match-play. So, the first target is to be healthy, not winning or losing,” she adds.

Will there a critical review after the Hobart and the Australian Opens? “I think it will be too soon to make a judgement. I feel that I am lacking in match practice. One way to get it is to just play matches, feel rusty and lose some games too,” says Sania.

Will there be any pressure? “”No, not at all. It is just about getting into playing shape. So, I don’t put any pressure on myself and repeat what comes is a bonus.”

On her new doubles partners, Kichenok and Ram, she says, “I never played with him. But he is a close friend of mine since I was 12 and he, 14 years. It will be lot of fun and more so he is the defending champion in Melbourne,” Sania reveals.

“Nadiia is a solid player, ranked World No.38. It is a really good opportunity to get into the thick of it all. Remember, I am not going there to win Australian Open, though anyone would love to win a title. But, I look at this (partnership) as a really good opportunity for both of us,” she concludes.

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