One of the most successful tennis players in this part of the world, Sania Mirza has been an icon of inspiration for every Indian girl in the country. Ace tennis champion, 2015 Wimbledon winner, United Nations’ Women’s Goodwill Ambassador for South Asia, a woman of substance and a mother speaks to Provoke Magazine about her growing up days, challenges, the many hats a woman juggles and more.
When and how did you realise that this is what you want to do?
I started playing tennis when I was six years old, but I realised that this is what I want to take up as a profession when I was 12, when I was recognised under 14 and under 16 junior tennis player category. Obviously, my parents were guiding me throughout.
I used to play tennis, go roller skating like how a six-year old would do. I used to do many things. And I was slightly better at tennis than the other things and one thing led to the other. I was 12 and my life changed completely. We had seen a dream to be the first woman to do so many things from this side of the world and to have achieved so many things. We took pride in every victory, whether it was big or small, as a family we celebrated everytime. My life was very different from the other kids. I’m grateful and humble to be able to have followed my passion. I had to be very careful and disciplined. I would wake up at six in the morning and practice and again play in the evening. By 8 pm I would just crash in bed. So it was a different childhood and very different growing up, but now looking back it all seems worth it.
You have won many awards and recognitions over the years. But what were the hurdles you had to face initially to reach where you are today?
There were many hurdles initially. There was a cultural hurdle coming from this side of the world, from people who would question about picking up a global sport like tennis, where earlier not many have achieved a lot. There were other issues like courts made out of cow dung, or issues like finding the right shoes, or the right court to play in, the right coaching, the right guidance, infrastructure, financials besides many other hurdles. Finding the right hard court to play tennis in Hyderabad was a big hurdle, 25 years back.
Please share some of the highpoints of your journey?
Luckily enough for me there have been many highs. It’s been a long career, being number one, winning many tournaments, or winning junior Wimbledon, and multiple medals at the Asian games, or playing at the Olympics three times or whether it was winning six Grand Slams. I feel extremely grateful to have achieved so many of my dreams.
Celebrating Women’s Month, what in your view do women have that makes them what they are?
What makes what they really are is the fact that they know that nothing is impossible, they can manage so many roles in one lifetime. They are a mother, a wife, entrepreneurs, professionals, go getters, homemakers and they can multitask and make all of it work. We women have this ability. It’s amazing that there is still a women’s month. I feel every month is women’s month. I feel that as a woman one can do and achieve everything as a man is able to do as long as you have the same kind of opportunity and encouragement. Women are the true rockstars and should be celebrated every day and every month and not only during the month of March.
It’s not easy the way we women juggle around so many things- our work, homes, families, social lives, fitness etc. Some tips on how you balance it all so beautifully?
It’s about managing time, when you’re fulfilling so many roles. How one manages one’s life and daily routine. You have to give the same kind of effort and time to every role you play. When I’m not playing tennis, I don’t like to go out too much now. I’ve passed that stage in my life now and I like to stay at home and spend some quality time with my son (Izhaan Mirza Malik), my husband (Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik) and my family, workout or watch some Netflix. Becoming a mother has made me more than just a woman or a tennis player. Yes, it’s definitely not so easy, but we make it work. God has given us the ability to do it. I believe that we are given only the amount of struggles that we can handle. One has to choose their passion and do what they feel is right for them. If you really want to do something, believe in it and work towards it. I also have my ups and downs, good days and bad days and I manage it. I’m thankful to have a good support system around me, that really helps a lot.
What is in the pipeline in terms of your work currently?
I’m leaving for Doha and Dubai as I’m playing some tournaments there (Dubai Tennis Championships) and I’m really looking forward to it.