Bangalore: Sania Mirza, the poster girl of Indian tennis, carries the hopes of a billion people on her slender shoulders and there is no doubting her talent, tenacity and tough-as-nails attitude on the court. Sania, after an eventful 2007, looks forward to ‘08 with a lot of expectations.
The year 2007 saw Sania bounce back from injuries in the latter part of the year. Sania had a good start to the year, doing well at the Hopman Cup in Perth and the WTA Tour Hobart event, but a knee surgery put her out of action.
She, however, finished the year impressively reaching the final at Stanford, semifinals at Hobart and Pattaya and quarterfinals at Bangalore, San Diego and Tokyo (Japan Open).
In August 2007, she was on a career high No. 27 in singles ranking (current ranking – 31). Equally outstanding was her doubles record with four Tour titles with four different partners, Vania King, Bethanie Mattek, Mara Santangelo and Shahar Peer which catapulted her doubles ranking to an all time high of 18. Sania admits: “It has been a rough year and I am lucky to get back and finish on a great note.”
Training at the Bhupathi Tennis Village, before she embarks on another taxing grind, starting with the Hopman Cup later this month, she said she is completely “fit” and mentally and physically charged after an enjoyable training stint with Mahesh Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna and Aisam Qureshi.
Her new physical trainer Renuka Pinto said: “Players like Sania are like Ferraris. One needs only to fine tune them to keep them going.”
And Sania is ready to go now, full throttle.
Excerpts from the interview:
On 2007: “It was a rough year. I had an injury and a surgery. The start was good. When you have a surgery, it’s tough to comeback. I was lucky that I could make that comeback. I had a great summer in America and was really playing well. In the end, it didn’t turn out to be a bad year. Instead, it turned out to be a great year, probably, the best year.”
Goals for 2008: “The main goal is to continue playing well. I think the results will follow, if you are playing well. It is always about doing the right thing. It is very hard to have a specific goal, say I want to be in the top 10 or 20. It is just about taking it day by day. As it is, it’s getting harder every day because the competition is growing.”
On her fitness: “Touch wood, I’m very fit right now. I don’t have any injury or anything. I can’t guarantee how long this (being injury free) will last (laughs). I’ll try and keep myself as injury free as possible.”
On the key factor that will help her break into the top 10: “I don’t think it is just one key factor. At the beginning of the year (07), I was doing exactly the same thing that I was doing at the end of the year. People were saying how bad I was playing and how I need to do this and do that. By the end of the year, I was doing exactly the same stuff. It’s just that I was getting the results. Clearly there is no key as to what you have to do to break into the next level. Of course, I have to improve my serve and my fitness. I can probably pinpoint a lot of things.”
On success in doubles: “My priority has always been singles. Just because my ranking is better in doubles does not mean I’m concentrating on doubles. I think doubles comes more naturally to me. It is obviously a lot easier to play because it is not so physical. It is very important for me to play doubles, but if I have a choice to be No. 1 in singles and doubles (laughs), I would be No. 1 in singles. I don’t have a partner for the year. In Australia, I’m playing with (Maria) Kirilenko. That’s about it.”
On teaming up with Bhupathi in the mixed-doubles: “It is an honour to play with Mahesh, I think for anyone. He is one of the greatest ever doubles players in the world and it is great because he is Indian. We have this great relationship on and off the court. We are looking forward to the Australian Open.”
On Hopman Cup: “I think it is a great way to start the year. Everyone is coming off a break and it is a good way to ease into the year and then get into some really competitive tennis. It is obviously great match practice. I think last year me and Rohan (Bopanna) really played well. It is very good, pretty relaxed and competitive at the same time. We’re looking forward to it and doing well again.”