“Competitiveness is in my blood” – Sania Mirza, after making the final in her final Grand Slam

Playing in her last Grand Slam with one of her best friends (Rohan Bopanna), Sania Mirza is through to the final of the mixed doubles. The pair beat the 3rd seeds who’ve won the last 2 Wimbledon Mixed Doubles titles. The match was really tight, with our Indian pair finally coming through 7-6(5), 6-7(5), 10-6 after a lot of ups and downs.

Here are some excerpts from the post match interview –

Q) Take us through the final match tiebreaker

SANIA MIRZA: It was a really tight match obviously. But that’s what happens in the mixed, right? With the scoring format, it’s so tight all the time. We were lucky to have two straight set matches in the first couple of rounds. But we’re playing against one of the toughest teams in mixed who won a lot of slams together and separately.

Just happy to come through, especially after losing the second set and having match points. We were just mentally tough and came through in the third.

Q. Sania, can you talk about your approach to this tournament. Are there any nerves before coming to matches? How do you see this versus any other tournament?

SANIA MIRZA: I play every match trying to win, whether it’s my last tournament or my last slam or my first slam. For me, competitiveness is in my blood. Every time I step on the court, I want to win regardless of whether it’s going to be my last slam, whether it’s my last season. That for me, yeah, it’s just who I am as a human being. I can’t take that out of me.

It’s special in many ways. It’s emotional in many ways. The approach to every match remains the same, the same professionalism, warmup, routine, sort of will to win. That doesn’t really change.

Q. You said that you and Rohan partnered for the first time all those years ago.

SANIA MIRZA: When I was 14.

Q. Was that at the Nationals?

SANIA MIRZA: Shirams. We won.

ROHAN BOPANNA: That’s right.

SANIA MIRZA: Do you remember who we beat?

ROHAN BOPANNA: Yeah. I have a good memory, too (smiling).

SANIA MIRZA: Who did we beat?

ROHAN BOPANNA: I think Sheethal Goutham and Mustafa Ghouse.

Q. Rohan, you spoke about going for the title, how it was important for India. Can you expand on that a little bit, please.

ROHAN BOPANNA: I think everybody keeps always asking us why there are no singles players, there’s only doubles players. I look at it saying that at least we have somebody still flying the flag in this tournament. That’s the most important part.

I think every time a match of any one of us playing is telecasted in India, that’s the only way to inspire somebody. Any sport I think if you’re watching and you see your countrymen participate in that sport, that is the true inspiration. Doesn’t matter whether it’s singles, doubles, mixed doubles, anything. I think in any sport people come out and support us for so many years. It’s been fantastic support.

It’s amazing that we also get energy from that. Every time I feel we are playing, somebody watching gets inspired. I know Sania has been doing this for such a long time. So many girls have picked up tennis thanks to Sania’s tremendous career.

Every time even that 1% if it increases, I think it’s a big win for the country.

Q. There is a big chance you play against the Brazilian players in the finals. I would like your expectations and to talk about Brazilians.

SANIA MIRZA: I actually don’t look at the draw. I just go match by match.

ROHAN BOPANNA: They’re playing semis now.

SANIA MIRZA: I have no idea.

Yeah, I mean, who is it? Stefani and Matos? Stefani is someone who is coming back from a big injury. She’s been a great player. She was one of the best doubles players before she got hurt with her knee.

Honestly, I just want to enjoy what we did today. I don’t really want to think about it. I think we’re in a good position to sit back, have some dinner, watch that match tonight. I’d rather be in this position than playing second night match.

We’re really happy to be in the final. Whoever we play, a final is a final of a Grand Slam. Yeah, we’re going to play our hearts out and hopefully – sorry – but try to come on the better side.

Q. Rohan, Sania said her approach is similar regardless. Do you feel any pressure or responsibility given you’re partnering her for this big event?

ROHAN BOPANNA: No, I think it’s truly an honor for me to be playing with her. She asked me last month in Dubai. I straightaway said yes.

We get along great off the court. I think that really made that difference today. Even though those guys I felt were recently a lot of match wins, the camaraderie we shared I think pushed us to get through those matches. Even though close points we lost, I think that makes a difference.

We enjoy playing together. We bring the best out of each other. On court we shared how we are feeling. That’s what is truly great. I think, yeah, helps us come through those matches.

When we’re on court, we’re just playing tennis and really enjoying every moment, not really thinking about it. I think it’s been fantastic reaching the final here again for me and really looking forward to the final on Friday.

Q. You said you’ve been coming here 18 years. Can you think about your favorite memories at the Australian Open.

SANIA MIRZA: The first time I made the final here was in 2008. We’re in 2023. It’s a bit scary for me to think about that actually.

For me, even though I’ve had so much success here, I think I’m in my fifth or sixth final here overall, having won a couple of times, for me the most special memory remains playing against Serena here when I was 18 years old, even though I lost that match, got blown off the court.

Honestly, that was really my, so to say, my belief was instilled there that this is where I belong and this is where I want to be. Even though Serena won that tournament that year, for me it made me believe that a young Indian girl, the dream that I had to play in the slams, try and win them, was something that happened that year for me in ’05.

Even though I’ve been able to win so many more matches after that, have some great matches, win slams, that memory… I’m getting goose bumps when I talk about it.

I remember John Cain Arena used to be Vodafone Arena when I played there. It was an incredible memory for me. That’s something that was was probably the most special, even though I lost.

Q. (Question about women’s cricket in India.)

SANIA MIRZA: I mean, it’s obviously great. We’re on the way up. I think it’s amazing to have women. Obviously we’ve had so many male cricket stars from our side of the world. To have women stars as well is something, that’s the way forward really. It’s good to know. I had no idea that happened actually.

I’m pleasantly surprised. We have some huge stars in women’s cricket now as well who are carrying that torch. For me, I think we’ve spoken about this so much, about taking women’s sport forward, especially in our part of the world where we still I don’t think sport is the most natural course of a career that they choose, young girls, right, especially parents.

It’s amazing maybe this kind of stuff helps parents also encourage their young girls to take sport as a career. It’s not just, Oh, my God, what are you doing going and playing like boys sort of situation. You can actually say you’re playing like a girl.

Q. What did you say to each other after the second set after the match points went by?

SANIA MIRZA: We said too good from Krawczyk (laughter).

ROHAN BOPANNA: I think Desirae 5-All, 6-5, hit two incredible cross-court backhands. We said, Let’s keep at it, stay positive. I think the early lead does help. It does make a big difference. I think once we had that moment back again, we made sure we kept at it and put a lot of pressure on their serves. I think it carried us through there.

Vatsal is a tennis player and fanatic. Currently learning French

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