Tennis has been my life: Sania Mirza

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 Indian ace tennis star Sania Mirza, who announced that she would hang her shoes after the current season, said the game has been her life and will continue to be associated with the game after retirement as well.

The 35-year-old former doubles world No.1 star, in an exclusive chat with Telangana Today, revealed that a lot needs to be done in Indian tennis to produce players who can win Grand Slams. When asked about her post-retirement plans, she said, “Tennis has been my life and naturally I hope to be associated with the game in some capacity in future. It could be as a coach, mentor, commentator or any such role at some point of time.”

The six-time Grand Slam champion revealed that she can’t pick one moment as her favourite as winning any medal for the country was a great achievement. “It’s difficult to pick out just one memorable moment of my career. But winning 14 medals for my country, achieving a ranking of no. 1 in the world, winning Wimbledon in 2015, beating Grand Slam Champions like Martina Hingis, Kuznetsova, Bartoli and Azarenka rank high among my memorable moments. I feel absolutely fulfilled with my career and if 20 years ago someone had said that I would achieve all that I have managed to do, then I would have taken that with both hands.”

With the curtains on a stellar career set to come down, the next Sania Mirza looks miles away. But the Hyderabadi picked two youngsters who can carry her legacy forward. “Karman Kaur Thandi and Ankita Bhambri are the most promising among the younger lot but they still have a long way to go.”

Sania turned pro when she was 15 years and has seen the game change a lot. Speaking on the game’s development in the country, the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awardee felt, “I think firstly, the number of tennis courts all over the country have increased manifold. I also feel that the infrastructure has improved and coaching centres like the SMTA and the Rohan Bopanna Tennis Academies are able to provide a path for the aspiring young tennis players, which was not so when I started out.”

“We still have a long way to go before we start producing players performing at the Grand Slam level on a regular basis. A lot needs to be done.”

Will the star player play a key role in mentoring upcoming players at her academy Sania Mirza Tennis Academy once she is out of the game? “I think we are already playing a major role in promoting tennis all over the country – not just in Hyderabad. We have already produced a second Olympian in the form of Prarthna Thombare who partnered me in the Rio Olympics and we have also had several national ranked players at the junior level. Apart from this, by hosting AITA tournaments in various age groups on a regular basis, we are providing a platform for the juniors to perform and develop into future professionals.”

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