That’s what all-time great Sania Mirza wants to do in her retirement; two exhibition games in Hyderabad today bring the tennis-playing curtain down for good
Sania Mirza signs a copy of Sunday mid-day (February 5, 2023) in Hyderabad on Saturday. The issue featured special pages on Sania after she announced her retirement from Grand Slam tennis. Pic/N Jagannath Das
As the sun had set on her phenomenal playing career, another bright perspective looms large over the horizon. What’s next for Sania Mirza? The most challenging would definitely be her role as a mentor or coach.
She has the wherewithal, potential and experience to unearth and guide new talent from her own academy or other pastures. The 36-year-old tennis great will finally say goodbye to her illustrious career by playing two exhibition matches at Lal Bahadur Tennis Stadium in Hyderabad on Sunday.
“I am able to finish where I started in Hyderabad. Tomorrow is a big day for all of us. A lot of things started at the LB Stadium. The emotions will start hitting me. I don’t know about my future plans, but I’m excited. I will have some best friends here tomorrow,’’ she said on Saturday.
Speaking at her academy along with her best friend (Bethanie Mattek-Sands of USA), Sania said it was a bunch of factors that made her retire from the game. “My body had so many surgeries. It takes 45 minutes to warm up before actual play. I was spending more time warming up my body than playing on the tennis courts. That is where I learnt where my body was no more accepting.
“I had a 20-year long career and I wanted to finish on my own terms. I want to finish when I am on top and it was perfect for me to play a final of a Grand Slam event [Australia Open] and that is it. Now, I want different things in life. I just don’t have the emotional capacity to work in a way to be at this level. Most importantly, I want to spend more time with my son [Izhaan]. I want to stop travelling as my priorities are different today,’’ said an emotional Sania.
‘We need to have a system’
She added: “It is a huge challenge to be the next Sania Mirza, otherwise you could have someone in the last 20 years. The fact is that we need to have a system going and put it in place.”
On future plans, Sania said: “I would be open but I would like a little break. I have to be part of the change but I’m happy to be part of the change of whatever capacity. I can commit on a timeline when I want to do that. It is something which I’m open and not against."
Her best moment was her partnerships with Martina Hingis and Mahesh Bhupathi. “I shared the best partnership with Martina and Mahesh for a long time. The kind of things we [Hingis] were able to do together on the court was pretty amazing. It was truly special when we did not lose a match for six months. We won 40-odd matches. Those moments were special.”
Unfulfilled Olympic dream
Missing an Olympic medal is a regret. “Two matches in the Olympics give me nightmares.
The one we lost in the semi-finals and one for the bronze [with Rohan Bopanna in 2016 Rio]. Some dreams come true, but you can’t be too greedy. I achieved everything but surely that was missing—an Olympic medal."