Sania Mirza, who made an exemplary return to pro tennis last week in Hobart, can’t wait to get started at the Australian Open. She, along with her Ukrainian partner Nadiia Kichenok, lifted their first trophy as a pair in Hobart, and will look to continue with the momentume in Melbourne as well. Excerpts from the interview below –
Q) How do you feel about contesting in the first Grand Slam of the year?
I’m just really happy to be back playing tennis. It’s been a long time. Obviously Australia is somewhere where I started playing in 2005, my first-ever slam. I’m really excited to be back here, to have like a sort of second ending to my career, I guess. I’m looking forward to it.
Q) Especially after a two-year absence?
Yeah, I think, like I said, I have a lot of memories from Melbourne. I have a lot of memories from here. It’s a special place in my heart because this is my first-ever slam that I ever played. Like I said, it’s also the first-ever slam that I would be playing after I’ve had that two-year absence, which I didn’t know how I was going to make it back after having a baby.
It’s as close to a home slam for us as it gets, especially for Asians. We’re obviously excited to be here.
Q) How much more complicated is it for you now as a mum traveling so far away from home? Do you have a much bigger entourage?
I’ve always had. My baby’s entourage is bigger than mine now. That’s the only way I’m able to give my 100% into training. It is a little more complicated. He sleeps in the same bed as me still, so he wakes up a couple of times a night. It’s basic things like that that you probably don’t think about when you’re not a mum. It’s things like that.
I’m really lucky. I have a lot of help. My mum is there. My parents have been a great support. There’s no way I would have done it without them. It does get a little more complicated.
Having that kind of support system, I’m okay to leave him and come here and do this, not worry about the fact he’s back in the hotel room. It’s a bit of mixed bag. I think after having a baby, it puts a lot of things in a lot of perspective. We understand losing a tennis match is probably not the worst thing in the world.
Q) Does that help sharpen your multi-tasking?
I’m a woman (laughter). I think multi-tasking is something that maybe comes a little bit more naturally to women than men. I’m just going to say that.
But, no, yeah, I think there is no other choice. It does help to have so many hands, so many helping people around. Honestly, if you asked me this two years ago, if I was going to do it, I probably would have said no. But I’m glad that I did. I’m glad that I’m here today
Q) Did you have a particular inspiration, one person in particular, who inspired you to come back as a mum?
I mean, it’s great to see so many mums out there. I feel especially in the part of the world that I come from, when women have a kid or kids, it’s treated as kind of an end of their world, it’s all about the children. I feel that women are made to feel if they go out and chase their dreams, they’re probably not the best mothers in the world.
I hope that changes. I hope that if my victory or even one match can inspire even one woman to follow her dream or heart, I would be really, really privileged.
Q) Sania, if you could talk about winning in Hobart, if that has changed your expectations, raised your expectations, coming here?
I think that’s the best thing that happened, is you go into a tournament and you expect so much out of it sometimes that you put unnecessary pressure.
I went into the tournament hoping to play a match or two. That’s what we kind of spoke about, too, with Nadia. Winning it obviously meant so much because I don’t think anyone expected it, neither did I, to come back after two and a half years and win a tournament.
As far as expectations, I think one tournament is too early to sort of judge what’s going to happen, how the year is going to go. There’s a lot of other things, the body, it reacts a bit differently now. I’m a couple years older, too. After the baby, as well. More probably to do with age than anything.
So I just have to keep all those things in mind. Expectations, I mean, I always expect the best out of myself. Yeah, if I don’t win, it’s not the best. I try to win every match that I play. That’s just every tennis player will tell you that.