Sania Mirza completed a dream comeback to professional tennis by winning the doubles title of the Hobart International on Sunday. It was Sania’s 42nd doubles title, the most by any active players, and while she has enjoyed tremendous success as a doubles player, the 33-year-old has been devoid of an Olympic medal.
Sania has featured in four Olympic games but hasn’t fared as well as she’d have liked to. And Tokyo 2020 could well be her final opportunity to achieve the one feat she’s longed to. Although Sania admits to have thought about it, she isn’t losing her sleep over the prospect of winning a medal at the Olympics.
“The Olympics is something that’s in the back of my mind. It’s not something that I’m focusing on right now, but it is something I look forward to,” Sania told Times of India.
“I’m already proud of myself for having put myself in this position to compete again at the highest level, anything that happens after this is a bonus. I really appreciate this a lot. Playing tennis was far from my mind, still the Olympics is not something as tennis players we can focus on. I would be proud of myself if I put myself in a position to compete there again for a fourth time, to put myself in a position to win that only medal that is missing from my cabinet.
“It would be awesome if it happened, but if it doesn’t happen, I’m not going to kill myself.”
The Hobart International was Sania’s first tournament in 27 months. In September 2017, Sania sustained a knee injury, as a result of which she missed the first few tournaments in the 2018 season before she announced her pregnancy in April 2018. And Sania, a six-time Grand-Slam winner couldn’t have hoped for a more memorable comeback as she partnered Nadiia Kichenok and lifted the Hobart trophy. Despite having recently turned mother, Sania suggests she isn’t done as a tennis player yet.
“I was nervous for my first match, but the rest has been pretty organic. Everything feels normal. As an athlete you live for this, live to fight in these moments. It’s natural, it’s like breathing. When people ask me why I’m returning to competition, this is why I’m returning, for these moments,” Sania said.
“I still believe I have some tennis left in me. It doesn’t feel like I have to put effort into anything, be it spending time with Izhaan, going for practice or going to the gym, which is why we are all travelling together, everything becomes easier. If you want to play at the highest level, which is what I’m trying to do, you are going to have to give your 100 per cent.”
In terms of preparations, Sania admits she surprised herself, hoping to be rustier having not played a match in over two years. The thought of coming back hadn’t even crossed her mind until six to seven months ago, but having worked actively towards achieving fitness, Sania ensured she was back in the court and improving her doubles record.
“I was alright under the circumstances, I felt I played alright, better than I expected. Physically too, it was fine except for the calf muscle I pulled a month ago, which I strained again during the final. That’s a result of not playing matches for a while, you push your body that extra bit when playing a match. No amount of practice or repetitions can replicate a match situation. You can’t replicate nerves, match circumstances, that feeling of wanting to win. You can’t do that in practice, it’s not possible,” she said.
“I was like if it does happen great, if not… It wasn’t something I was actively working towards, I was actively working towards getting fit again. I wasn’t working towards a goal of saying I want to get back at this point in time. It was only six-seven months ago, that I felt it. I started practicing a lot more, I was hitting once a week and then I started doing it twice a week and then thrice a week. It was a gradual process.”