“I am still playing because I think I have a decent level of Tennis left in me” – Sania Mirza, after reaching QF of WTA 250 Cleveland Open

Sania Mirza and partner Christina McHale breezed past the unseeded pairing of Kalashnikova/Mitu to book their place in the QF of the WTA Cleveland Open. Mirza and McHale won the match 6-3 6-2, with a sizeable Indian crowd in attendance.

Sania talked about multiple things after the match, including her take on social media, her motivation to play Tennis, who she is going to partner at the US Open, how it feels to have Indians watching her play everywhere, and much more

Q) How did your partnership with Christina(McHale) come about? Given you guys have not played together before

This year has been really tough. I played two tournaments in March – Dubai and Doha. Then I skipped the clay court season because I had just one Grand Slam left with my Special Ranking, so I wanted to save it for later. So it’s been challenging to schedule this year, not just because of my special ranking situation but also because of the travel restrictions.

I just asked Christina, to be honest and I told her I wanted to get a few matches in and get my rhythm back. I have known Christina for a long time and we have played against each other at least ten times, if not more. She is a great girl and a great player. So the partnership came about really organically and there was nothing dramatic about it (laughs)

McHale and Mirza with the latter’s son after their win

Q) Your thoughts on the match. You guys were gelling well towards the end. There was a sizeable Indian crowd as well

We’re lucky to have Indians everywhere. That is a huge plus and I have always said that throughout my career that we are a lot of us and we are everywhere(laughs). It was great to come out on centre court after a long time. It was great for me to come back in front of the crowd and get a win, because we have missed that so much during the pandemic.

We got better and better as the match went on, which is quite normal. It was good to get that first set through and we were playing better and understanding each other better in the second set, which is very normal in a new partnership.

Q) You haven’t been playing with a regular partner this year – do you think it is impacting your performance in terms of results?

Most definitely. It is not easy to change partners every week. But it is what it is. And you need to deal with the cards you have been dealt. For me, it’s about trying to go enjoy myself every match. I am not playing Tennis anymore to prove anything to anybody or to myself. I am still playing because I think I have a decent level of Tennis left in me.

Obviously, I have taken so many stop-starts in the last two years due to multiple reasons. So it’s been tough to find a regular partner. It is definitely important to have a consistent partner if you want to get to the top. Hopefully, I will be able to find a regular partner at the start of next year and try and build on that.

Q) How was the experience of playing with Ons Jabeur in Cincinnati last week – you both have been trailblazers for the sport in your respective regions

Ons and I are good friends and we get along really well off the court. I know it may come as a shock but every time we step on the court, we are never really thinking about the “trailblazing” that we are doing, but we are just trying to play a Tennis match. I know, from the outside, it probably sounds really exciting and we both realise that the things we have been able to achieve has done a lot of good for the regions, countries, and the religion that we come from. But it’s not something that’s on our minds constantly (laughs)

Unfortunately, we had a really tough draw last week. And she had a couple of very tough singles matches before we had to play. So we were like “we should try this again some time and hopefully Ons doesn’t have to play a four hour match before we play”. She was a lot of fun to play with.

Ons Jabeur and Sania Mirza in action in Cincinnati last week

Q) You are the most followed WTA athlete on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. How do you deal with the pressure from outside voices?

Honestly, I don’t really take social media very seriously. We should all take social media with a pinch of salt. Of course, social media is great to connect with your fans. At the end of the day, there are a lot of hidden faces or trolls, for the lack of a better word. I don’t take either very seriously – the good or the bad. Social media doesn’t make my mood for the day.

It’s great to have a huge following, but pressure is something I have grown up with since I was 15. I am pretty much used to it. I have been written off multiple times but I have been able to come back and have been able to play some of the best Tennis. Losing a Tennis match is not the worst thing that can happen to us. That’s the attitude I go in with and try to give my best.

Q) Who are you going to partner at the US Open and beyond?

I am entered with CoCo Vandeweghe at the US Open. After the US Open, I will be playing a couple of weeks with Zhang Shuai at Indian Wells and Chicago. I am not sure if I am going to play another week between US Open and Chicago or not.

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