“Singles players get more time to set up and hit on clay as it’s slower” – Sania Mirza, after beating a pair of singles players to make R2 at French Open

Sania Mirza and her Czech partner Lucie Hradecka got off to a winning start at the French Open, coming back from a set down to complete a dominating victory in the end. The pair won 4-6 6-2 6-1 against the Italian pair of Paolini and Trevisan.

Speaking after the match, Sania spoke about numerous things – the match, her season so far, if she’s planning to re-consider retirement, and much more. Excerpts below:

Q) You lost the first set. What changed after that?

We weren’t playing bad. I even told Lucie, that we are just playing the way they wanted us to play. So we had to change something. So we had to use our experience to change things up. We were playing against two girls who hit a quality ball from the back of the court. So they naturally wanted to hit cross court, since they’re good singles players.

But I literally told Lucie that every second or third ball, we have to hit either down the line or lob them, and then get into a down the line rally from the back court. So we used our experience, changed the tactics a little bit, and got them out of their comfort zone. We got a break at 2-2 in the second set, and then got more aggressive with our strokes, and the momentum shifted.

Q) When things aren’t going right, do you start doubting yourself? Wondering what’s going wrong?

I think that’s the beauty of Tennis, right? You have to find solutions by yourself. You’re not often going to a perfect match. There will be something that can always be better in the next match. That is how we used our experience to get them out of their comfort zone. Somedays you are able to do it, someday you’re not able to do it.

Q) You play two singles girls in the next round too. So a similar match….

Yeah, but we have the two-point deuce in the grand slams. So it gives you a little bit of a breathing space. Even if you lose a set, you have time to figure it out in the second and third sets, like what happened today.

The next girls we play are also good singles players, like you said. Especially on clay, because it’s slower, and it gives the singles players a lot more time to set up and hit. On a faster surface, you can come in to the net and rattle them a little bit, which is not possible on clay. We have to use your experience on the doubles court, and play our game.

I feel Lucie and myself also hit a huge ball. I believe we are at our best when we’re hitting big from the back court. And it doesn’t matter who’s on the other side of the court, they’re going to be on the back foot.

Q) About the mixed doubles yesterday, you got off to a slow start with Dodig. How do you treat mixed doubles? Is it a fun thing? Or…

No. You’re trying to win a Grand Slam. I try to get on the court and win every match I play. It’s never a fun thing. I’ve played with Ivan (Dodig) multiple times. We’ve got really close, made semis, finals, etc. So we met in Australia and joked that we have got to give it another shot before I stop.

We haven’t played together in 6 years, which is so hard to believe. It feels like just yesterday. We were playing the final here in 2016, which was the last time we played together. More than anything, we have a lot of fun as we are good friends off the court. We had the same trainer, and have a lot of things in common.

Honestly, I am at that stage of my career where I want to play with people I like and have chemistry with, be it in doubles, or mixed doubles. I want to enjoy himself.

Q) You’ve been having great results in the last 3-4 months. You’re almost getting back to your previous level as such. What sort of effort did it take to get back to this level again?

I actually don’t see Tennis like that. I don’t see it as going back to a level. I don’t measure myself like that because I think Tennis is ever-evolving. It’s not the same players playing when we were no. 1 seven years ago. So I don’t think it’s a fair comparison to say, okay, at that time, I was playing like this. So now I think you have to adapt in tennis and you have to evolve.

This is the first time I’m actually playing a full year since I came back in 2020 during the pandemic. Then last year I didn’t play Australia, I didn’t play the entire clay season. So it is about putting the week in and week out of playing. I’ve finally able to do that and with someone who’s a very solid partner.

I think that makes makes a very big difference, as well. So I don’t know if I can measure myself and say I’m playing like last time, but I think that I’m playing a very high level. I feel that together we’re playing well, and the effort is obviously not a secret, it takes a lot.

I haven’t seen my son all day today. But it is a part of who we are as women and what we do. It takes an army to get here. I had a meniscus tear, so I had to sort that out. I missed Madrid because of that. And then I was working three hours in the gym for rehab and trying to make the right decision. Obviously, in the end it was the right decision to not play Madrid.

So I can’t really explain what goes into it, really, but a lot goes into it and it takes an army to make it work.

Q) Your thoughts on the WTA event coming back to India. It’s not finalised yet, but…

If it happens, it will be great. I just wish he had more young girls and women playing at that level. Just having a WTA event won’t change that. But it is a step in the right direction, since we’ve not had it in so many years. Especially now, me being at the end of my career, it’s time for other girls to step up. You can’t wait for a WTA event to do that.

I don’t know if I’m going to play or not, as I don’t know my schedule after the US Open. But it will be great to play at home, one last time, before I stop.

Q) Ramkumar Ramanathan won his first Grand Slam match yesterday. Your thoughts?

Oh yeah, he was pumped! He was really happy. He’s a really nice guy, but he’s still a kid in front of me (laughs). He also gets along really well with my son, which does not happen often actually that a male person gets along well with my son. Even during my match yesterday, Izhaan (Sania’s son) says “Ram uncle” and he goes and sits on his lap, so he was very fond of him.

He’s our future, he’s our number one tennis player. But he is our future and he definitely has the game right now to be top 50 doubles straight away. There’s no doubt about that but I think that he has a shot at being top 100 in the world at singles. I truly believe that, and with the kind of weapons he has, with a little bit better guidance I guess, I think that he can make it.

Q) On the transition from singles to doubles. You did that a few years back. Ram is kind of at that stage. When do you think is the right time?

I think we’re at very different stages. I was 27 in the world in singles and then I decided to stop. I don’t know what his best was but he was maybe 130 or 140, and I think that he still has the potential to be top 100.

I had other problems with my body so I had to make that decision at that point and obviously, in hindsight, it was the right decision to what I did and what I was able to achieve in doubles. I believe I would not have been able to do that playing singles and doubles together because I was around 70 in the world in singles and I would have had to play qualies in singles.

And then you’d go deep in doubles and then you have to make a decision whether you’re gonna play doubles the next week. So it’s very difficult to get to number one like that. So for me, I had to make that decision, whether I was going to try to be world number one, and winning Grand Slams and focusing my entire energy on that, or be 70 in singles and 20 in doubles and, and be struggling with my body.

So that’s where I was. I don’t think he’s there. I think he’s a fit guy. I think he’s not really struggling with injuries and I do still think that he has the potential to be top 100. I don’t think he should make that call right now, but that’s just my opinion.

Photos from Sania’s match:

Indian based in the Alps region. Works for an IT firm during the weekdays und auch lernt Deutsch. On the weekends, he can be traced somewhere in the Mountains or on backpacker trips. Is a Social Worker / Activist with a deeper interest for Indian / Swiss tennis from the past year.

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