Tennis

‘Tough being hunted, but a privilege being the hunter’

Six-time Grand Slam winner Sania Mirza spoke on Monday of the expectations that come with winning and the challenge of handling them as she continues to set records with Martina Hingis.

“It is tough to be hunted but always a privilege to be the hunter,” Sania said, after returning from a successful Australian Open campaign in Melbourne.

“It is mentally and physically draining to be consistent at the highest level. Winning also takes a toll on you for it means training that much harder to stay at the top,” she said.

“I kept telling people that 2015 was a dream year and how difficult it would be to maintain that level. But, the year 2016 was off to a dream start and I could not have asked for a better one winning the first Grand Slam of the year.”

Sania and Hingis claimed their third straight Major, extending their winning streak on tour to 36 matches.

“The reason, I repeat, is that we understand each other pretty well and there are lots of small issues which we share, which eventually pave the way for success,” she said. “It is not just about on-court chemistry but also off the court… we are very good friends and that helped us gel into a winning combination.” Talking about the dynamics of doubles match-play, Sania said that often under pressure only one player lifts. “But, in our case, we invariably raised the bar together. This is something really special in our partnership,” she said.

“There is no doubt she is a great player and remember, she was making a comeback to the big league. And, it worked both ways when we decided to play together. I wish I played with her much before in the circuit given the stupendous success we have had in the recent past. Our doubles combination comes off as a whole package which is yielding results.”

Difficult to manage

Sania said the pressure to keep winning was difficult to manage. “Yes, it is never easy. A time comes when you have to lose but I hope it will not come soon,” she said with a smile.

“Every time, people joke, saying, ‘how many more you are going to win?’ This is the kind of reputation we have built up during our partnership. So, to be honest, the pressure is on us.”

To whom would she dedicate this Australian Open title? “This is for the people of this country who showed so much love and affection. Thanks to the social network, I came to know about so many keeping track of my performances and conveying their feelings. And then to my family members,” Sania said.

Sania said it was the best phase of her career “in terms of numbers.

“It is very difficult for any athlete to say that they have not lost 36 matches in a stretch at the highest level and I am definitely proud of this feat. But there have been many other special moments in my career.”

Asked about the thinking involved in choosing mixed-doubles partners, Sania said the most important factor was dates.

“I played with Ivan Dodig in the Australian Open and will continue with him in mixed,” she said.

Rio Olympics

Sania hoped that the best doubles combinations will represent India at the Rio Olympics. “You know it is never going to be easy at that level. But given the field which has all the Rogers, Djokovics, it will never be easy,” she said.

“All I can say is that I will wait till the cut-off date and not commit myself. The important thing is that I have qualified for the Olympics by virtue of being World No. 1 and still not sure whether Rohan (Bopanna) or Leander (Paes) will make the cut. And, five months is a pretty long time in a tennis player’s career.”


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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 12:07:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/tough-being-hunted-but-a-privilege-being-the-hunter-says-sania-mirza/article8180062.ece

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