For the first time in more than a decade, India’s tennis sensation, Sania Mirza, was with her parents for nearly four months, courtesy an injury on her right wrist. But this wasn’t the kind of break that she was looking for. Sania, after all, has been eager to get back on court, her passion for the sport and the desire to experience the winning feeling being the driving factors in her comeback trail.
Sania, 22, said she was really happy and feeling very good to be back on court for such long hours. “The most important thing is that I am back and so is my confidence,” she said in a chat with Sportstar.
For someone who is preparing to make a comeback during the high-profile, Continental exhibition tournament in Hong Kong in December (she will be representing Asia in the tournament that will feature players such as Jelena Jankovic, Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams) it is definitely difficult to be forced into a long break from competitive circuit. “But I am looking at it this way. Okay, let me deem the break as an off-season and start afresh my preparations,” Sania pointed out.
Watched by her father Imran Mirza and helped by coach Ganesh Raman and two Hyderabad players — Manchit Madan and Chetan Panditi — Sania seemed to have regained her confidence. “You go through a lean phase when you tend to get self-doubts because of the break. But the most important thing is you are coming out of that with all the support of the family and well-wishers. So, obviously, I am not looking too far ahead right now,” she explained.
“The immediate focus will be on the National camp in Bangalore from December 1 to 25, featuring Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna among others,” Sania revealed.
How difficult was it to be away from the action?
“Well, being denied the chance to compete, for reasons beyond my control, in the big league is one thing that I badly missed. The feeling of winning is something that cannot be substituted by anything else,” said Sania.
What are the grey areas of concern?
“Well, for any sportsperson the solitary objective is to keep improving. And considering that I am back after a long gap, it might not be too easy,” she said.
“This is the reason why I don’t want to think or give an impression that I can start winning matches straightaway,” added Sania, who is now ranked No. 99 in the world.
“However, I can say that I am in the best frame of mind for the big league again,” said Sania, who will be helped by Sven Groeneveld, who also coaches the World No. 1 Jelena Jankovic.
What kept her going despite the injury?
“The passion for the sport, the desire to come back and play against all the top players in the world,” said Sania. “Honestly, I was never worried about the numbers (rankings). Even when I was World No. 27, my focus was on how well I played on a given day, I did not give too much importance to rankings.”
“By all means, this is the beginning of a new chapter in my career. Hope things will move in the right direction,” she added.
Sania is well aware of the challenges ahead. “We know that it is not going to be easy. And also that training and coming back to competitive circuit are two different things altogether,” she said.
Imran is hopeful that Sania would get a direct entry to the Australian Open next year. “The cut-off ranking is around 100 and Sania should be there. She needs a couple of good wins to start with or else she will drop in rankings,” he pointed out.
“I am very keen to see how she holds up in the highly competitive big league as we will be there in Melbourne a week before the Australian Open,” said Imran, who is immensely pleased that Sania has got the power back in her strokes, especially her forehand.