She may be the World No. 1 in women’s doubles, but life has not really changed for Sania Mirza. The 29-year-old tennis star from Hyderabad still follows the same routine — rising up early, before much of the city wakes up, picking up her kit bag and driving straight to the court for her daily training. In fact, she has been doing this for close to 24 years now. So, it is not for nothing that Sania is the numero uno in women’s doubles.
Unlike many in her age group who would love to have an outing with friends and relatives at least during weekends, Sania’s lifestyle is completely different, and this despite achieving what no other Indian women’s tennis player has. She sometimes finds it difficult even to allocate time for attending weddings in the family.
“I am glad that I was here in the city for my cousin’s wedding. These things have become a privilege of sorts for me because of time factor,” says Sania, who took some time out from her busy training schedule to speak to Sportstar .
Life has always been a tough grind for the winner of five doubles titles in the majors. “Yes, there is no doubt I love to spend time with my parents, sister, family and friends but just cannot do that, for I still play tennis passionately; it is my first love,” says Sania. “And, well if you want to be the No. 1 in your sport, you have to make these kinds of sacrifices,” she adds.
Sania reiterates that as the No. 1 doubles player in the world, it is difficult for her to move around in the family and friends circles. “You can’t think about that always. Yes, it is immensely satisfying to have achieved it (No. 1 ranking), which was a dream not long ago. No doubt, to get there, it has been a real struggle — not just for me, but for my parents (Imran and Nasima) and also my sister Anam, who takes pains to take care of my personal needs when I am travelling,” she explains.
“This journey in life and in sport has been truly fabulous — full of emotions that only I and my family members can experience,” says Sania, who is preparing for the next season, beginning with the Australian Open.
“Yes, life has to go on irrespective of what you have achieved or missed. Staying positive and focussed has been my guiding principle in life and sport,” she adds.
According to Sania, the best part of her career is that both Imran and Nasima know the game better. “I don’t think anyone has seen me hitting tennis balls more than they have, not even my coaches. They are my mentors, guides and coaches. I am lucky to have such wonderful parents who have always backed me,” she says.
However, Sania says that sometimes she is tempted to think of what she misses in her daily life. “Well, I don’t have the time to get up from bed and go straight to the wardrobe to pick a dress of my choice. My first choice has always been the tennis gear.“But, as I said, when you want to be at the top, these things are secondary. I look at it the other way —how many can be a World No. 1 in sport?” she says.
According to Sania, instances of the Mirza family having lunch or dinner together have been very rare in the last two decades or so. “They might look small things, but don’t they form such an integral part of any family?” she asks gently.
The fact that Sania just cannot afford to take any medicines to ward off minor dental issues or even common cold because there is no guarantee which drug is on the list of banned substances (by the WADA) is another problem. “Sometimes, I have to bear with such problems for weeks and still keep playing,” she says.
As the talk veered round to her husband, Pakistan cricketer Shoaib Malik, Sania says that because of their professional commitments it has been always difficult to spend more time together. “But again we have set our goals in our respective fields and once we achieve them, we can always think of life on the other side,” she says.
On her partnership with Martina Hingis, Sania says: “Well, I can say that the chemistry with her has been the best compared to my previous partners. This I say with due respect to all of them who played a key role in my emergence as the No. 1 player in women’s doubles.
“Somehow, we (Hingis and I) gel extremely well, understand each other better, and most importantly know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps, my strength on forehand and the way she comes up with such great shots on her backhand are the crucial factors in our success.” Talking of her goals in the coming season, especially after having had what according to Sania has been the best year of her career, she said: “It is always tough to better your previous performances. But, yes, it would be great if we continue to do well, win a couple of Grand Slams and finish off another year as the No. 1 in the world.”
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