Sania Mirza’s tennis career, from the beginning, has been punctuated by controversy. The most recent one, was of course, a politician’s comment that she, by virtue of being married to cricketer Shoaib Malik, is the “daughter-in-law” of Pakistan. But Sania’s moved on, she says. Not one to mince words, she also calls the brouhaha over Maria Sharapova not knowing Sachin Tendulkar “silly”.
How much did the “daughter-in-law” of Pakistan comment affect you?
At that time, I did feel sad. But I don’t hold grudges. I live in the present; I might not even look too far into the future. There are no hard feelings towards anyone, since I’m not a bitter person.
A number of Bollywood celebrities, including Salman Khan, came to support you.
I know a lot of them, like Salman, personally. More than as celebs, they came out in support as friends. Even celebrities I don’t know spoke up. And, thank God, logic prevailed.
Also read: Sania breaks down, asks why she has to 'assert Indianness'
How was your recent meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi?
It was great. It was the second time I met a Prime Minister. I had met Mr Manmohan Singh too. It was a great honour, meeting Mr Modi. He asked me if I need any help or support from him. We also talked about my tennis academy.
Is he a tennis fan?
I didn’t ask him whether he was a tennis fan. But he told me that he really wants sports to grow in the country. Also, he remembered meeting my sister (Anam Mirza is a professional shooter), some 10 years back. That was impressive.
A lot of debate followed Sharapova’s comment that she didn’t know who Tendulkar was. Do you think it was blown out of proportion?
I think it was really silly. We make a big deal out of a lot of things that shouldn’t be a big deal. Sachin is a legend, and one person not knowing him doesn’t make him less of a legend; and it doesn’t make Maria a bad person.
Rumours have surfaced that there’s trouble in your marriage with Shoaib.I don’t think people should believe anything unless it comes from either of us. For the record, there’s nothing wrong. There are a lot of rumours, but we can’t sit and react to each one.
Also read: Courting controversy: Celebs speak up on 'Pak’s daughter-in-law'
You’ve been offered movie roles in the past. Do you see yourself acting?
Like I’ve always said, ‘Never say never.’ But it’s highly unlikely, because I think I’m too shy to act in Bollywood (laughs).
Recently, you gave Shaik Jafreen, a deaf and dumb tennis player, Rs 5 lakh.
More than a year ago, I read an article about her, saying that she’s the number one tennis player in her category in India. At that point, she didn’t have the money to train. And at that time, I was starting my academy, so I invited her to train for free. She went on to win a silver medal at a world championship this year. She had a sponsor, but there was some issue, and her father happened to mention it to me… I hope that the money is enough for her to travel for the next few months.
You’re the only well-known Indian tennis star at the Asian Games. Does that increase the responsibility?
I can’t remember the last time the responsibility wasn’t on me! As we know, not many tennis players — especially women — have come up after me. So that’s something (pressure) I’m used to. If anything, I think the pressure is less, because I’ll be playing with comparatively lesser-known players. At least, when I play with Leander (Paes) or Rohan (Bopanna), a medal is expected, but right now, I don’t think one is expected because we have a new team.