Sania Mirza is delighted to end the year 2016 on a high — retaining the World No. 1 ranking in women’s doubles.

In an exclusive interview after the completion of the final-leg of the ITPL here, the six-time Grand Slam winner said: “Yes, I repeat that these rankings are not the only thing we play for. But when you know that are the No. 1 in the world in your sport and for the second consecutive season, it gives you that very special feeling and a sense of great achievement.”

While Sania Mirza will start the season with Bethanie Mattek-Sands at the Brisbane Open, she will resume partnership with Czech Barbara Strycova at the Sydney Open before heading to Melbourne for the Australian Open.

“Well, a new season awaits and fresh challenges are bound to be there. We have to re-set our goals and keep moving ahead. I will take it tournament by tournament as I have always done,” she said.

“What I will be sincerely hoping for is to stay healthy without any injury scares. Having faced some of the most career-threatening injuries and coming back from those turbulent phases, I know what it means to be fully fit for the competitive circuit,” the champion from Hyderabad said.

“Essentially, my whole effort will be to keep trying and to be never found wanting in terms of hard work and commitment. I simply love this sport. I have already started training for the season beginning next month,” she said.

Looking back, she said she felt bad missing out on an Olympic medal. “Well, the biggest disappointment when I look back at 2016 is not winning the Olympic medal in Rio despite coming so close to that (lost in the mixed doubles semifinal). Yes, I could not come to terms with that performance in Rio. But you have to move on. But again, you win some, you lose some. That is life,” Sania said.

The champion performer was also glad that she could spend some time with her family. Sania's husband, Pakistan cricketer Shoaib Malik, was also in the city recently to attend her sister’s wedding. “It is so important in any athlete’s career. You need these kind of moments to feel so refreshed even to look ahead,” she said.

The World No. 1 in doubles reiterated that she would love to spend quality time with the trainees at the Sania Mirza Tennis Academy whenever she could find time. “The whole purpose of setting up this world class facility is to provide a platform for the young talent to showcase their skills and dream big. From our side, we will continue to bring the best of the players and the coaches to the Academy. The onus is on these young kids to make optimum use of the facilities,” she explained.

“There are no specific targets, but yes, I would love to win a couple more Grand Slams next year. Let us see how things shape up,” she signed off.

(As appeared in on December 16, 2016)