Sania Mirza: A trailblazer who became the world's best

The curtains are down on her career but Sania lives on with her rich legacy on and off the court.

Published: 05th March 2023 08:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th March 2023 08:50 AM   |  A+A-

Sania Mirza (File photo | PTI)

Tennis star Sania Mirza. (File photo | PTI)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: “I know nothing about cricket,” Sania Mirza was seen telling the Royal Challengers Bangalore contingent in a video posted on their official Twitter handle. She has just been named as the mentor of the Women’s Premier League franchise.

One would scoff at those words. After all, she is married to former Pakistan cricket captain Shoaib Malik and is seen in the stands watching cricket, too. And who doesn’t know about cricket in India?

But for those who know her, she is just that. The words sum her up. There are no qualms about hiding something that she may not know and would speak her mind almost unabashed. Consequences are damned. And her greatness stems from it.

The curtains are down on her career but Sania lives on with her rich legacy on and off the court. She had been one of the greatest woman athletes of post-liberalization India and she held that beacon with aplomb. Yet, not all had been a hunky dory. She had to fight the system and build her career despite the system. Time and again she was forced to wade through a plethora of challenges that sports would hurl at her or society but time and again she, just like her stinging forehand, would shoot it down the line.

Those t-shirt slogans she wore that said “Well-behaved women rarely make history” and “You can either agree with me or be wrong” turned into controversy and even at the tender age of 19, she handled it with dexterity. She grew up challenging the established order of post-liberal India and at times even challenged the country’s conservative thinking. There have been moments when she had to stand up for her rights too.  Even now.

What made the 36-year-old even more extraordinary was her conduct on the tennis court. She never let those moments get under her skin and always made it a point to reply with a win on the court. And every time there was a controversy or someone questioned her achievements she would come back.

Without her numerous exploits on the tennis court, she would have been lost in the pages of tennis history. For about two decades she dominated women’s tennis not just in the country but in India too. One of the first women’s World No 1s. The only Indian singles player to be seeded at a Grand Slam in the last 20 years. The only woman in India to have won a Tour-level singles title. More than 40 doubles titles. Year-end Finals titles (for a period of time, SanTina, the doubles team comprising Sania and Martina Hingis, was a story in itself). For 91 consecutive weeks, she was World No 1. That is still a record for an Indian woman across disciplines. Her singles journey was cut short by injury but even in those early years, she showed glimpses on her genius.

Perhaps one trophy she would be missing is a medal at the Olympics, which she had always dreamt about. Now that she walks into the sunset, that moment could be still realised by her, maybe as a coach or a mentor.

Like she said in the same video posted on the RCB tweeter handle, “I thought (when I was made mentor of RCB) what I am going to do, what am I going to talk to the girls about? I am recently retired, actually it’s just last week. So I was thinking what (would) my next step in life be? So my next step was to try and help women athletes around and in India.”

She also says that she would be able to help through “the mental aspect of things I have been going through in my career...” She is the toughest player, mentally and would definitely help the women cricketers with her rich experience. And like she says, “Last year had been tough with three surgeries... it’s always good to go out when you are on top.”

Life has taken a new turn. We don’t know much about the immediate plan for her future, but we do know she wants to spend time with her son Ishan. Like she said on Saturday in Hyderabad, she wants to do many other things in life and “most important of all is spend time with my son (Ishan).”No matter what she does she will always remain one of India’s finest sportspersons.

India Matters


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