Sania going through another critical phase in her career - Imran Mirza

Sania is going through another critical phase in her career and has to give herself time to make a strong comeback, says her father Imran Mirza.

Sania Mirza with her son Izhaan. Sania's priorities have changed a bit since the birth of her son, says her father. - V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

Sania Mirza, the six-time Grand Slam champion, continues her romance with tennis as she embarks on another US Open championship.

According to her mentor-cum-father-cum-coach Imran Mirza, Sania is going through another critical phase in her career.

“As long as she wants to play, she will. But, her priorities have obviously changed a bit now after the birth of her son, Izhaan. She is an individual and I don’t get into her private life. She is mature enough now to know what she wants to do and what is good for her and her family,” Imran said.

“Sania has to give herself some time to make a strong comeback. Two years of pandemic has hit all sportsmen badly and almost every athlete across the world has suffered. To be in some kind of rhythm at the highest level, a top-class player needs to play at least 30 to 40 matches in a year,” Imran explained.

'More than satisfied'

“Due to her injury, then pregnancy, the birth of her son, and then the pandemic, she’s probably only played around 25 matches in the last four years and that’s just not enough.

“Personally, as far as I am concerned, I am more than satisfied with all her achievements in tennis and I have very few ambitions left as she has achieved more than I had ever imagined she would. It is up to her to take a call on how long she will be able to play and balance her role as a mother and also her family commitments,” he said.

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“But Sania is keen to prove what a mother can achieve in the world of sports. I’m happy she wants to make a point and she has our entire family’s support. Yes, she will have to make a few adjustments. It will be a tough ride for sure. If she wins one more Grand Slam, and even if she competes on level terms with the best in the world, she would be making a very strong point and sending a message - life doesn’t stop after motherhood,” he said.

“For sure, it is not going to be easy,” Imran added.

'Lucky'

Commenting on the talent available, Imran said it was not just talent that creates a successful tennis player, many other factors have to fall in place, including proper guidance from family, commitment, support staff, raising finances and using them in the right manner, among a lot of other things.

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“We were lucky when I look back on Sania's career. She had the phenomenal talent to start with but also the entire family had the skills and determination to support her in the correct manner. I feel it will take a long time for another player of the calibre of Paes, Mahesh, Rohan, or Sania to emerge,” Imran said.

Referring to the autobiography of Sania, ‘Ace Against Odds’, Imran said the primary objective of writing the book was to ensure the controversies that dogged her didn’t overshadow her achievements.

Sania Mirza at training in Hyderabad. - V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

“In a way, we thought of enumerating all her achievements under one cover for posterity so that everyone would remember her for her achievements as a tennis player,” Imran said.

“We were keen to present Sania’s viewpoint about all the controversies first hand. We had the opportunity to put her perspective and also the family’s - people should know the truth. And, importantly, we wanted to provide some kind of a road map for all future players and parents and support staff,” he said.

'Right dose humour'

Imran said it was important to have the right attitude towards sport. He said Sania had a perfect background to understand that victories and defeats, ups and downs were a part of life and that she handled them with decorum and grace.

Imran said that, as parents, they always tried to take the pressure off her. “We always made her smile even in defeat with the right dose of humour. All we expected was for her to give her best and wins and losses were made to seem inconsequential as long as she had tried her best. Nasima and I always ensured we never put pressure on her by way of expectations,” he said.

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Imran touched on the different ways male and female tennis players needed to be handled. Women tend to be far more emotional and one needed to time discussions about the game with them perfectly when they were open to being corrected rather than immediately after a bad loss, he said.

On advice to parents, he said they should hope for the best and have a plan for the worst. They should assess the potential of their child realistically, never give up if there was a genuine chance of success, and never stop learning.

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