On Monday morning Australian Open Grand Slam champions Mahesh Bhupathi, Sania Mirza and Yuki Bhambri returned home to a grand welcome. While Mahesh Bhuopthi won his 11th Grand Slam title partnering Sania in the mixed doubles, 16-year-old Yuki Bhambri joined the legendary Krishnans and Leander Paes as a junior Grand Slam champion. Sania left the nightmare of terrible injury behind to pocket her first Grand Slam trophy. The smile is back on her face and she is back to where she belongs. So much promise and so much to relish, Indian tennis has never been so healthier.
Gaurav Kalra: A very warm welcome here on CNN-IBN. A big congratulations to you.
Sania Mirza: Thank you.
Gaurav Kalra: Let me begin asking you that no matter what happens in the rest of your career you will always be known as a Grand Slam champion. How does that make you feel?
Sania Mirza: Great. I think this is something we all play for all our lives. When you pick up a tennis racket, you dream of being a Grand Slam champion one day and there are very few fortunate ones who's dreams have come true. I am really excited. This is a feeling which is very difficult to describe in words. I know that even if I retire tomorrow, I am going to be a Grand Slam champion.
Gaurav Kalra: Vanish that thought Sania because the wonderful stories have just begun. Looking at that remarkable ceremony where we saw an Indian pair winning the Australian Open. However, the reception has not been very bad since you have come back - the crowd at the Mumbai, Hyderabad airport - it has been wonderful.
Sania Mirza: It has been wonderful. I think this is India's specialty that when you come back to India, back home you get so much of warmth from everyone that you can feel it. When I and Mahesh were on the flight it was so great to see so many smiles. I am very thankful to every single Indian who supported us through this and I am very excited to be back.
Gaurav Kalra: Now you have just come back home and I know the reception back at home is very special. You spent a lot of time at home last year but now you are a Grand Slam champion so have you started demanding your mother that what am I going to get to eat?
Sania Mirza: Honestly, today I am eating everything. There is a huge chocolate cake which I have just cut after coming back. I am going to eat that to start with, I will also have Hyderabadi biryani. It has been really long since I have been out so today is the day to let myself just go. It has been really hectic, I didn't get a minute to sit down and say wow! I guess it is still sinking in. All my loved ones are here so it is very special.
Gaurav Kalra: You are also the first Indian woman to become a Grand Slam champion. There have been several men who have done it in the past, does that feel a little bit more special?
Sania Mirza: No. As I said it is still sinking in. Though people have been telling me that you created history, I don't look at it this way. It was my first Grand Slam and hopefully there is lot more to come. As a woman I am happy that I brought Grand Slam back to India and I am happy that this will take tennis to a different level in India and I think it was even more special because it came with Mahesh.
Gaurav Kalra: At times in all of this celebration we tend to miss the big picture. The matter of fact is that you both play wonderful tennis. Talk us through the week, if I am not mistaken you missed couple of sets throughout this entire tournament.
Sania Mirza: Yes, we missed just one set in the quarters. We didn't start off that strong because we hadn't played together for a while and we were getting use to each other but as the week went by we got better and better and in the final we both came up with our best game.
Gaurav Kalra: Was Mahesh a little bit nervous before the Mixed Doubles final because he had just lot mens’ doubles title. Sania did you have to encourage him that come on Mahesh we can do this?
Sania Mirza: You know we were watching his match around 1200-1230 hrs IST a night before. He had to come back to the same court in not even 24 hours later, as a tennis player I know how difficult it is. Of course, he was upset but everyone around him was just trying to keep him as positive as possible. In the starting you might have found him a bit sluggish but after a couple of games he picked it up. He is a 11 times Grand Slam champion, one of the best we ever had not only in India but also in the world.
Gaurav Kalra: Sania tell us a bit about the theories going about how this can be a big stepping stone for success and other ventures as well. Do you think that something like the mixed doubles will help you in your singles as well?
Sania Mirza: Honestly, a Grand Slam is a Grand Slam. It doesn't matter that it singles or doubles to start off. Secondly, I don't want to get too ahead of myself. I want to live in today; I don't even want to think that what will happen tomorrow. I am hearing that I am hitting the ball really well. I had a pretty decent tournament to have not played for six months and for coming back with a Grand Slam.
Gaurav Kalra: Yes, it was more than a pretty decent tournament. Moreover, besides Sania and Mahesh there was one other big Indian story to emerge from the Australian Open and that was a 16-year-old boy, Yuki Bhambri of Delhi. He became the first Indian in nearly two decades to win a Junior Grand Slam. He has followed the footsteps of Ramanathan Krishnan, his son Ramesh and Leander Paes - who have also won Junior Grand Slams before. This is a monumental achievement by any stretch of imagination is what Yuki said. Has this boy something special in him?
Sania Mirza: What Yuki has done, I think is great. We were on the same flight and I congratulated him.
Gaurav Kalra: Was he a little shy to talk to you Sania, because he is just a 16-year-old boy?
Sania Mirza: His sister use to play with me, so I know him. It was good to see him all grown up. I know he was not shy at all. He is made India proud and made each one of us proud. He can make a transition from the junior to the main game that happens usually. That is the toughest thing to do but lets hope he comes through. He is the biggest prospect we have right now.
Gaurav Kalra: Did you watch any of his matches? Sania were you impressed with what you saw, any advice?
Sania Mirza: Honestly, I don't want to give any advice. I think there are enough people giving advice. I think what he is doing is great. He has a good team behind him. I am sure he will be fine.
Gaurav Kalra: Sania where are these girls going? We see all boys coming up - Somdev, Yuki. Why isn't Sania Mirza inspiring young girls to come and become a tennis player champion.
Sania Mirza: I don't know. We shouldn't get too hasty about it. Right now we have Somdev and Yuki, we shouldn't get too greedy for it. We can hope that we can have lot more Grand Slam champions coming out.
Gaurav Kalra: Watching Roger Federer break down at the end of this, how disheartening was that?
Sania Mirza: It was heartbreaking. You are so used to see him win, it is tough. As an athlete, I can understand where he is coming from. As he said, when you lose a match, you have to just go and take a shower but this was not like that but you can’t do that. You lose at such a big stage and such a close match. Well, for me he is still the king and he will always be.
Gaurav Kalra: What do you think he should do to beat Rafael Nadal as they will only meet in the finals of the big tournaments?
Sania Mirza: Yeah it is tough. Rafael is playing very will right now. He is the best player in the world and I am a huge Rafal fan as well. He is physically so fit, but I am in no position or anyone out here is in no position to tell Federer what to do. He has won so many Grand Slams. I am sure he is talented enough and he will figure out a way.
Gaurav Kalra: What do you think is the roadmap. If you have to make a prediction then put your self out there and say when is title no 14 coming?
Sania Mirza: I am going to say Wimbledon, this year.
Gaurav Kalra: What is the road ahead for you, what are your plans for the next few months?
Sania Mirza: I am going to stay home, I am nursing an abdominal injury, so I’ll take a call on Thailand which is in about a week. So for now I am going to rest and be home for a couple of days. Just going to enjoy sleeping on my own bed.
Gaurav Kalra: Do you have set plans in mind , of the things that you are going to do in the year ahead for 2009?
Sania Mirza: Not really. Like I said, I am living in the moment right now. That is something that I have learnt in the past few months, that you cannot plan things. Things will happen. That is what I had told myself before going to Melbourne. Right now I have an abdominal injury so I am going to get that right, and after that may be go to Thailand and Dubai and take it from there.
Gaurav Kalra: Grand Slam champion Sania Mirza, thank you for joining us, it has been a fantastic achievement and congratulations once again.
Sania Mirza: Thank you.