We enjoyed the challenges: Sania Mirza's father Imran on their journey

Imran stressed that Sania’s fiery forehand was God’s gift and that he had to double up as a coach, as he understood the ball games well.

Sania Mirza shares a moment with her son, Izhaan, and father cum coach Imran Mirza at a training session.   -  FILE PHOTO/V.V. SUBRAHMANYAM

 

Pressure may be a privilege in the world of sports. But, parental pressure is detrimental in the process of helping the children realise their potential. In a no question barred conversation with the national women’s cricket coach W.V. Raman on Facebook, Imran Mirza gave an insight into the process of the raw talent of Sania Mirza blossoming into world No.1.

"Parental pressure can destroy a person," said Imran, who has been the coach of Sania on the professional Tour for more than 20 years.

"When Sania started, the goal was to enjoy sport. We thought cricket was not the game for girls, when she was 6 1/2," recalled Imran.

"Under pressure in a match, Sania always came out firing," said Imran, emphasising the importance of allowing the talent to play free, without the worry of winning, at an early stage.

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"Too much pressure, it leaves a mark on their personality," he observed.

Pointing out that it was a hard journey, especially in the initial years, as they had to wait in the morning to get into a private synthetic court, as there were only two in Hyderabad then, Imran said that the family was happy to have built a world class centre with 12 courts.

Imran stressed that Sania’s fiery forehand was God’s gift and that he had to double up as a coach, as he understood the ball games well and that the family could not afford top foreign coaches.

Imran Mirza (right) in a chat with W.V. Raman.   -  SCREENGRAB/FACEBOOK

 

Sharing the credit with wife Nasima, and daughter Anam, who all played their part well, Imran said that as the captain of the ship, he ensured that ‘’it sailed well’’, despite all the troubles and tribulations.

"We enjoyed the struggle and challenges," he said.

Having gone through three surgeries, two on her knees and one on her wrist, Sania had to settle to be the best doubles player in the world, rather than prolong her singles career as a top-100 player.

"She had reached a singles rank of 27. It was the best in the 125 year history of Indian sports. We knew, she would not be able to emulate that," said Imran, reasoning the family’s decision to focus on doubles, which has seen Sania win six Grand Slam titles and stay as world No.1 for a long time.

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"Once convinced, Sania would go the extra mile," said Imran, about the way she followed up on the decisions.

After she had won Junior Wimbledon doubles when she was 16, the family had decided to focus on the women’s circuit, rather than aim more junior Grand Slam trophies.

"We believed that playing early on the professional tour would help her play against the top players," said Imran, even as he pointed out that Sania had won national under-14 and under-16 titles when she was 12.

Most importantly, the family was a cushion, absorbing all the pressure, and "never allow our negative emotions seep into her’’.

Imran said that he wore sun glasses to avoid revealing his emotions through his eyes during matches, even as his face sported a built-in smile!

"I was harsh on her only once, when I thought that she did not do her best in a junior match," said Imran.

He also explained how it was important to speak at the right time as a coach, insisting, "no point saying anything when it is not absorbed."

He felt that being outspoken, Sania paid a price, as the electronic media exploded into the country and was still learning "the way they need to treat a performer".

Sania and Rohan Bopanna had come very close to winning the Olympic medal in Rio. "The only thing missing is the Olympic medal. If she is destined, Sania will get it," said Imran.

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