Six-time Grand Slam winner Sania Mirza believes that when she plays in the Olympics, she becomes more patriotic and that will be the biggest motivating factor when she leads India’s tennis challenge at next month’s Rio Olympics.

“Yes, the patriotic fervour will be more in Olympics than in any other event. You are pumped up for sure with the pride of representing your country taking you to a different level to bring laurels for the country. But, well, if it doesn’t happen, you shift your focus to the US Open after the Rio Games. Life has to go on and it cannot be the end in itself,” says a philosophical Sania.

“I have achieved so much and an Olympic medal could well be amazing and completes my set of achievements at the highest level,” she said with a big smile.

The 29-year-old champion performer says mixed doubles (she is partnering Rohan Bopanna) is probably the toughest and most realistic in Rio. “Well, you go out play in any major event to win not just to participate. Every combination there will be really tough. You can’t ask for easy opponents at this level,” says Sania. “Yes, knowing Rohan’s game and having played together, we should be able to do really well,” she added.

“Unfortunately, I was injured in 2008 Beijing Olympics and then you all know what had happened in 2012 London edition as everyone was not in the 100 per cent frame of mind then. But, things look better and everyone seems to be happy. The entire tennis team will be meeting in Rio on August 1 and we hope to do really well,” the World No.1 in women’s doubles explained.

Sania, who will be partnering her Academy trainee Prarthana Thombare in women’s doubles in Rio, is pretty impressed with her doubles partner. “I love her spirit and the willingness to put in that extra effort to keep improving. I think her confidence level is up now. This is the best part of her career now and she can be a much better player after the Games,” the Telangana Brand Ambassador remarked.

“Let us be realistic. I look at Olympics as a huge learning curve for Prarthana. Honestly, I am so happy for her and proud that Sania Mirza Tennis Academy has two Olympians now,” she reminds with a big smile.

For her part, 22-year-old Prarthana is not scared of the huge challenge of taking on the best combinations in the Rio Olympics. “I am excited and just cannot wait for those great moments to be there in Olympics. The rest will depend on how well I respond to the given situation on the day,” she said.

“But, honestly, I am not scared or feeling any kind of pressure at the prospect of running into the likes of someone like Serena (who is her idol other than Sania),” says a confident Prarthana after a grinding training schedule with the illustrious partner.

“I repeat, when you train and play with someone like Sania everything else is secondary. You can’t ask for more certainly. She is the biggest inspirational figure for me and it is an honour playing with her in Olympics,” says Parthana.

“Yes, life has changed dramatically now for me – both on and off the court – ever since I joined SMTA an year ago. I owe everything to Sania and Imran uncle for the kind of attention and care they had shown to me,” she reminded.

“It is not just I am going to Rio for mere participation. You never know anything can happen in doubles. I just want to go out there enjoy even while giving off my best and I have a feeling that we can pull off a major surprise,” signs off Prarthana.