“We would have loved a fairytale ending” – Sania Mirza, after ending runners-up with Bopanna in her last Grand Slam

It was not to be for Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna in the final of the Australian Open Mixed Doubles, but it was an incredible run nonetheless to have made the final. Mirza, playing in her last Grand Slam, got emotional during the trophy ceremony speech, as she went down memory lane.

Excerpts from the post match press conference –

Q. Sania, Rohan, bad luck. Unfortunately it didn’t go the way you wanted today, but still proud of your last tournament together. Sum it up in your own words, both of you.

SANIA MIRZA: Yeah, I mean, I think that if I had to picture dream scenario in my head how I want to go out, it would be on center court, biggest or one of the biggest arenas in the world. Of course I would win in that dream, but I didn’t in this one.

We are very proud of our efforts. You know, Rohan and I go obviously a long way back, but just the fact that we are still here playing at the highest level is something that we are very proud of ourselves for.

To do it together, to be able to do it with one of my best friends, has been really special.

ROHAN BOPANNA: Yeah, no, absolutely. It’s been really great two weeks. Especially since after I lost early in the men’s doubles, it was great to, you know, start focusing on that mixed doubles.

We had some close matches, close wins, unfortunately couldn’t get over the hurdle today. But having said that, we were here on the final day playing at the biggest stage in a Grand Slam.

So really proud of the way we came through this tournament, and again, once again, congrats to Sania for a fantastic, fantastic career.

Q. Can you talk about the match. There were a lot of 30-Alls that did not go your way. Is it a case of opportunity that could not be converted?

ROHAN BOPANNA: I think it was different playing on Rod Laver compared to the other courts. Conditions were very different. I think it was much slower.

When I started off, I was struggling to serve there, because that’s my biggest weapon at the end of the day, serve, and just my toss and trying to find best way to do that. It actually put us I think on the back foot straightaway, with me losing serve right early, in that first game.

And, you know, having said that, we still managed to hang in there, got the break. You know, I had the opportunity to serve again that set out, and we had set point as well.

Yes, loads and loads of chances. I think it’s tough to really pick or get this particular one point would have made the difference.

Yeah, but I think definitely very different the way these guys played compared to all the other teams we played out there. You know, credit to them. They really played well, and I think stuck to their strengths.

Q. Sania, congratulations on a wonderful career.

SANIA MIRZA: Thank you.

Q. You’re leaving behind a great legacy. Do you have any message for all the upcoming players, especially young girls from India?

SANIA MIRZA: Yeah. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, even if nobody else has done it before.

I, for one, didn’t really have that role model back home in tennis as a young girl to follow and say, Okay, this woman has done it or this girl has done it and I can do it. They have that. They have that.

If I’m able to inspire even one or two girls to follow their dreams that are outside of the box, so to say, I would feel that, yeah, what I have been put in this place for, I have achieved it.

Q. Sania, it’s very close after the match, but what do you feel just now? Do you feel relief? Are you exhaling?

SANIA MIRZA: I have had a lot of emotions the last two weeks, and I have been saying that I keep them in. I’m good with that. Obviously it was a lot for me to handle today.

Sure, we would love to win this and have a fairytale ending and everything, but to be here and to do it with Rohan and to be in a final of another Grand Slam, I don’t know many, 16 years after I made my first, there are so many thoughts that I had in that moment.

I don’t really feel like relief, so to say. I’m going to miss it. I’m going to miss walking on big courts, miss competing and trying to win, and, you know, in some way even losing, looking back on the court and fight and come back again.

But I still feel I have a couple more tournaments and I want to play. But it’s tough for me to accept in this very moment that I’m not coming back here because I have been coming here for, I don’t know, 22 years, 20 years.

Q. Sania, congratulations on everything. I saw you nodding as Luisa was addressing you on the court, talking about, yeah, what it means to have a champion from a country that might, you know, not have as much tennis history kind of breaking through which the Brazilians did as well. Can you just reflect on a little bit off of that question, just the impact and the effect of, you know, just having you guys there after all this time in a Grand Slam final?

SANIA MIRZA: That’s the whole hope that you’re going to inspire more kids to not just pick up tennis racquets but just pick up sport, especially young girls. It has changed a lot since the last 30 years when I picked up a tennis racquet, people thought we were completely crazy family to have a dream, forget winning Grand Slams, but even to play them was something that was not heard of, and this young girl from Hyderbad who went on the court in Zhamclub playing on cow dung court.

I don’t blame them for laughing at us, but we had a dream and we were able to achieve it as a family. I just want kids to know that if you put your heart and soul in something, you can do it, no matter how many odds are stacked up against you. You’ve got to try. I mean, you’ll never know until you try.

For me, it’s been an incredible journey, and I achieved dreams that I never thought I would be able to achieve. And of course as an athlete, though, we are greedy. If you asked me would you have liked to do more? Sure. Instead of 6 I would like to have 12 Grand Slams and be top player in the world in singles, but that’s just not how life works.

I’m really proud of what we have been able to do, you know, with the kind of facilities and the kind of infrastructure that we were with and the kind of things that we came with 30 years ago.

Q. You mentioned on court there are a couple of tournaments left you.

SANIA MIRZA: I’m playing Abu Dhabi with Bethanie Mattek-Sands, actually. Because Bethanie came to me and said, You cannot stop without playing with me. I was conned into playing Abu Dhabi with her (laughter).

She’s like, No, no, no, you can’t stop.

So anyway, we have a wildcard for Abu Dhabi. And I’m playing Dubai with Madison Keys, who is one of my best friends on tour. So I want to finish playing with two of my best friends.

Q. On one of those shots that you kept repeating multiple times in the first set especially was the forehand. Can you talk about how that shot itself has evolved and how does it still feel hitting that weapon?

SANIA MIRZA: It feels great, especially when you go past the guy on a short crosscourt forehand. Feels amazing (smiling).

But that shot has won me a few slams and won me a few tournaments, and it was something that came very naturally to me. Steffi Graf was my idol growing up who had one of the biggest forehands, if not the biggest, you know, in the world. I always wanted to emulate her. I wanted to have a forehand like hers.

I’m so glad that I was able to come close to that, and people talk about my forehand. That’s something that I feel that it’s been such a big weapon in my life and in my career, and it’s really taken me places in singles, doubles, and mixed.

Q. Rohan, you’re 42 and you started the year with such a great performance here in Australia. Can you talk a little bit about the discipline behind your longevity and what you are looking forward to for the rest of this year?

ROHAN BOPANNA: I think the biggest thing is to constantly keep investing in yourself and trying to find what is best to keep you healthy on the circuit. I mean, couple years ago, especially during the pandemic, I found out doing Iyengar yoga helped my body and doing certain exercises.

So I think the biggest thing is to make sure what is good and right for you at your juncture in your career. Certain guys do it differently. They go to the gym a lot. I do very different stuff. I do yoga. I use a lot of TheraBands.

I keep adapting as the month goes, year goes. I mean, this time I have — last year I didn’t have really a physio really traveling with me. This year I have a physio traveling with me. I think it makes a difference.

The recovery part of I think a tennis player is what really makes that, you know, journey continue and keep going. You know, I’m looking forward to playing a few more tournaments with Matt Ebden and seeing how that goes.

Firstly, I’m heading to Davis Cup to Copenhagen right from here, and then looking forward to, you know, India playing Denmark.

Q. You mentioned about not having that fairytale finish, but is there any such thing? It’s just a moment. When you look back on your career from where you came to what all you achieved, it seems like a fairytale.

SANIA MIRZA: 100%. Like I said right at the beginning of that answer, I said that if I had to picture myself, I close my eyes and picture myself of where I would like to finish my career, it would be on the biggest stage of tennis.

I was able to do that, regardless of whether you win or lose. I mean, I’m able to say that I’m leaving the game on the top. I’m able to say I’m leaving the game because I want to, on my own terms, and that is very important for me.

I just answered five people while walking here through the locker room why I’m stopping, and that is something — we spoke about it the other day, and everybody is, like, why are you stopping?

Because I just feel there are more important things in life than tennis. My priorities have changed in life, having a son. There are so many things.

Fairytale finish, sure, it’s just a moment. For me, whether I win six Grand Slams or seven Grand Slams, that wasn’t going to change much in my life, right? Sure, on the record books maybe another slam, but for me, it’s more important of how I’m doing it.

Today I’m here, sitting after a Grand Slam final, knowing that I still have the level to make it to a Grand Slam final. I’m choosing to say that I want other things, and that is very important for me. I feel like after you have a child, especially, you know, winning and losing tennis matches, it really puts things into perspective of how small or big that is.

Me and Rohan, I mean, we might be sad and upset that we lost a final, but at the end of the day, this moment, this memory with Rohan is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. We might have lost Rio and came that close to winning a medal, but that’s a memory, an emotion we shared together. That’s made us closer as people, as friends. I’m so grateful. I asked him and he said yes to a retiring player to play mixed straightaway (laughter).

These are moments that will stay with me forever. The winning and losing is just part of life and part of the game.

Vatsal is a tennis player and fanatic. Currently learning French

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