Sania: I want to stay on top

In an exlusive interview with Sportstar, India's tennis ace Sania Mirza opens up about her preparations for the French Open, her partnership with Martina Hingis, her upcoming book and much more.

"It is pretty obvious that clay has never been my favourite surface but I want to give it my best shot this year," says Sania.   -  MOHAMMED YOUSUF

India’s tennis sensation Sania Mirza believes that she is in good shape ahead of next week’s French Open, having won the Italian Open doubles title last week (partnering Swiss great Martina Hingis in women’s doubles).

In an exclusive interview with Sportstar on Thursday, the 29-year-old Sania stressed that the joy of winning a Grand Slam title is always special, while emphasising that she doesn’t want to exert too much pressure on herself by thinking of winning the other three Grand Slam titles this year (having won the Australian Open this January).

“Once you enter any Grand Slam event, there is always that special feeling and the urge to win the title, though it is not always you end up a winner. But, I must say the confidence level is on a high having entered in three clay court event finals for the first time in my career,” a visibly tired Sania remarked on her arrival home from Italy.

“It is pretty obvious that clay has never been my favourite surface but I want to give it my best shot this year. It is also important to treat the French Open as any other Grand Slam while giving it due importance,” the tennis star pointed out.

Santina's secret

The Indo-Swiss partnership of Sania and Hingis, often called ‘Santina’, has been a formidable force in women’s tennis in the past one year, and Sania is hoping to maintain that momentum going into the only Grand Slam played on the clay surface.

“We have already won five titles together (with Hingis) including the Australian Open Grand Slam this season and the fact that we are the No. 1 women’s doubles pair even after one year is a pretty good achievement we are proud of,” said Sania.

“The chemistry remains the same – both on and off the court. Both of us complement each other remarkably well,” she reiterated.

Despite being World No. 1, the Indian ace from Hyderabad is not complacent, continuing to show the spirit on court, fighting hard for every point and celebrating happily with her ever-smiling partner.

“The drive to be the best in the business keeps me going,” said Sania. “For years, the struggle has been to reach the top and having scaled the pinnacle, there is that intense desire to stay at the top. I just hate to be the No. 2.

“I just keep enjoying my game and there is that unbridled passion for it even now. Nothing gives more pleasure than being on the tennis court, no matter whether you are training or competing with the best. The urge is to keep improving every time,” added Sania.

Sania will be leading the Indian contingent in the Rio Olympics and the tennis star couldn’t hide her excitement.

“Well, I am excited to play in my third Olympics this year in Rio. And, obviously winning an Olympic medal will be the next big dream though I don’t want to engage myself in any debate on who will be or who should be my partner,” a candid Sania remarked.

“Even now I believe that I have the ability to achieve more. This is what keeps me going. But, be sure, the day I am going to call it quits is still far, far away,” she said with a smile.

Sania has had many career-threatening injuries in the past and therefore gives great importance to maintaining herself well physically.

“Yes, Robert (Ballard) will be with me for the French Open. He has been of great help and I feel that his physical conditioning regimen should be of great value in the week preceding the Grand Slam. It is important to maintain peak fitness level before any event,” says Sania. The former Australian Olympian has been at the Sania Mirza Tennis Academy for the last few weeks taking care of the young trainees.

Ace against odds

Sania’s father-cum-coach Imran Mirza and Shivani Gupta have penned a book on Sania’s life titled ‘Ace against odds’. The book will be released after the Wimbledon this year and Sania hopes it will help youngsters dream big and more importantly work towards achieving the goal.

“It is a sincere attempt to let the world know about the kind of struggle the Mirzas have gone through to reach this stage. It has never been an easy route to stardom,” she said.

“Most importantly, I feel that the book gives us the opportunity to present our genuine view on some controversies, for it has always been the third party which was free to comment on them. We want to put the record straight and it is not a please-all attempt,” Sania explained.

“What gives me immense pleasure about the book is that it presents my career from the time I was six till date in chronological order. Hope it will be an inspirational,” she added.

“I don’t have any regrets. I have enjoyed every moment of all those struggles. It has been a life full of ups and downs. We (she and her family members) are used to these kinds of things and try to be always normal human beings,” concluded Saina.

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :