International Women’s Day 2021: International Women’s Day is meant to celebrate the achievements of women in all walks of life. One of the best examples of women achievers in India is Sania Mirza, who became one of the most well-known female faces in the sport of Tennis in India. Having turned pro in 2003, she has spent a total of 91 weeks at the number 1 position globally in the doubles category. She also remains the highest-ranked female player ever in Tennis from India. She also has six Grand Slam titles in women’s doubles and mixed doubles to her name. This International Women’s Day, Financial Express Online’s Bulbul Dhawan spoke to Tennis star Sania Mirza on her journey as one of the most popular women tennis players in India.
In true display of sportspersonship, Sania sees her journey to becoming one of the most recognised women in sports in India as special, instead of challenging, mainly because of her dedication and love for the sport. “Honestly, the goal was not to be well-known, but to achieve the goals and the dreams, working hard towards them, and playing for the love of the sport. I feel extremely grateful and humble to have achieved so much love over the years. Most definitely, being among the first women in the country to be recognised in this male-dominated arena was special, but it was not something I was aiming for. It just kind of happened. So, I don’t know about challenging, but it was surely special,” she told FE Online.
Talking about the difference faced between male and female players, Sania said, “Internally, I don’t think the expectations from players are different based on their gender. Everyone goes to play the sport, to give their best and to win. So, in the sense of hard work and training, the expectations are the same. Maybe the treatment is a little bit different, but that I think is a barrier and a gap which everyone is working to fill.”
Having been running the Sania Mirza Tennis Academy in Hyderabad since seven years, Sania has now partnered with Unluclass, through which she would be coaching people using the online mode. “We train people at the academy by sharing our experiences and our struggles, and everything else that we have been through,” she said, when asked whether the coaching would prepare aspirational women players for challenges they could face in sports based on her own experiences.
Sania had her first child in October 2018 with husband Shoaib Malik. She was off the professional circuit for about two years, before she decided to return to the sport after celebrating her son Izhaan’s first birthday, playing the first match in January 2020. Talking about returning to sports after giving birth to her son, Sania said, “It has been quite challenging because I had to lose 23 kgs, get back into the fitness regime and become strong again to compete at the highest level. But fortunately, I had a great team around me and a great support system with me.”
Currently, Sania, who retired from Singles format in 2013, is participating in the Dubai Tennis Championships’ Women’s Doubles with Slovenian player Andreja Klepac.