Sania also thinks like No. 1

"I have a wonderful chemistry with Martina Hingis, both on and off the court, which is working like a magic. We complement each other beautifully," says Sania Mirza.

Martina Hingis and Sania Mirzawith the trophy after defeating Casey Dellacqua (Australia) and Yaroslava Shvedova (Kazakhstan) in the women's doubles final of the U.S. Open.   -  AP

Sania Mirza with family members on arrival at the Rajiv Gandhi International airport in Hyderabad. She and her partner Martina Hingis won their second successive Grand Slam doubles title at the U.S. Open recently.   -  PTI

Before the U.S. Open, it was Wimbledon. Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza with their trophies after winning their first women's doubles Grand Slam title of the year.   -  REUTERS

Top honour... Sania Mirza receives the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award from the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, at at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.   -  Sandeep Saxena

Sania Mirza has once again reminded us why she is a phenomenon of sorts in Indian sports. The 28-year-old has won almost everything, from medals in Commonwealth Games and Asian Games to Grand Slam titles. The only thing she needs to add to her kitty is an Olympic medal. Sania is also the World No. 1 in women’s doubles. And come to think of it, she very nearly quit the sport a few years ago, unable even to lift a racquet owing to a serious wrist injury.

For Sania, the current season has been one of her best. In the last one month, she won back-to-back Grand Slam doubles titles — Wimbledon and the U.S. Open — playing in tandem with the Swiss great, Martina Hingis.

On her triumphant return from the U.S. Open, Sania, a brand ambassador for Telangana, shared her thoughts on the dream run she has had of late.

“All the efforts were bearing fruits. Honestly, even if I had not won the U.S. Open, it would still have been a great year for me, for the simple reason that I am the proud recipient of the prestigious Rajiv Khel Ratna Award,” she said.

“I value the Khel Ratna very much. That was the reason why I took the risk and flew to Delhi to personally receive it despite the function being so close to the U.S. Open,” Sania added.

Elaborating on her success, Sania said: “I am glad that winning has become a sort of habit now, especially while playing with Martina Hingis. Mind you, this doesn’t come off just like that. Lot of planning, hours of training and great levels of focus are the key to these success stories.

“Winning two back-to-back Grand Slam titles should be definitely a special feeling. It’s not easy to even win one, and so it is a lovely double for me.”

On her partnership with Hingis, Sania said: “Definitely, I have a wonderful chemistry with Hingis, both on and off the court, which is working like a magic. We complement each other beautifully, especially the way she matches her wonderful backhand and court craft with my forehand; she also does so well at the net.”

Sania went on: “Let me tell you, there is nothing in the world that beats the pride of playing for your country. The kind of support I get from millions of fans across the country — thanks to the social networking sites — is something unbelievable and keeps me going. They — besides my parents and sister — are a huge source of inspiration for me.”

According to Sania, she is probably playing the best tennis of her career. “Now everything seems to be falling in place. It is such a nice feeling when these things happen on the tennis court. I have always had the intrinsic characteristic to shut myself off from the rest of the world once I enter the court. I am lucky that I am blessed with this trait, which helps me stay focussed,” she said.

“If winning the women’s doubles title at Wimbledon was a dream come true, the U.S. Open crown within a space of four weeks is something equally special. Hardcourt is my favourite surface, and all that I was looking for was a little bit of luck and we were there on the podium, thanks to my partner Hingis,” Sania added.

According to the five-time Grand Slam winner, the key to being a champion is to sustain the levels of excellence over a long period. “This is what exactly I have been able to do with great satisfaction this year. The results stand testimony to this — two Grand Slam doubles titles, the World No. 1 ranking, the prestigious (Khel Ratna) award. And most importantly, the hunger is still there to achieve more and finish off the year 2015 on a much bigger note,” remarked Sania.

Over the years, Sania has had to face pressures of different kinds — from fans by way of expectations, and off-court controversies that were not of her making. “Well, that has been an integral part of my career over the years. When you reach a certain level and fans look up to you because of your achievements, you are bound to face the pressure of expectations. This actually spurs me on, pushes me into a different zone. Not that every time you succeed, but the extra effort will always be there. I look to these expectations as some kind of privilege,” Sania pointed out.

On her U.S. Open campaign, Sania said that once she and Hingis beat the Chan sisters, coming back from 0-5 in the first set, they got the feeling that they were closer to another Grand Slam title. “What I mean is the confidence level was up,” she said.

Sania, arguably the finest women’s player from Asia now in terms of achievements, especially in women’s doubles, said that any sport needs stars in order to remain popular amongst the masses. “Hopefully, our wins should inspire the next generation of players,” she added.

According to her, a sportsperson is never satisfied with his or her achievements. “We are all greedy people, you know,” she said with a big smile. “So, before I quit the sport, the urge is there to win a few more Grand Slam titles and stay as No. 1 in the world as long as possible.”

It’s not just winning; Sania also seems to be enjoying every outing on the tennis court. “I love tennis and have a passion for the game. I also love to compete at the highest level and I guess this shows on court,” Sania explained.

When asked about the Olympics in Rio next year, Sania said she preferred not to talk too much about it. “Yes, the target is there, but let us take it as it comes. The planning and the efforts will be there to win a medal. Right now my focus is on finishing this year on a high,” she said.

Sania then signs off reminding that her father-cum-mentor-cum-coach Imran Mirza understands her game better than anyone else in the world and that is why she is always in her comfort zone.