Her groundstrokes are sharp and her manner blunt. Being Miss Congeniality isn’t Sania Mirza’s mission. Winning tennis matches is.
The way the Indian has started the new year, she is doing her job. On Sunday, Sania played a key role in India’s stirring upset of the Czech Republic in the Hopman Cup in Australia. The 20-year-old started the tie by defeating the world No. 42, Lucie Safarova, ranked 23 places above her in the rankings. Then she teamed up with Rohan Bopanna to defeat Safarova and Tomas Berdych in the decisive mixed doubles.
The Czechs chased off, Sania answered HT’s questions in characteristically pithy style.
Wish you a happy new year. You are in Australia right now. Could you tell us in some detail how you are preparing for 2007?
Playing in the Asian Hopman Cup in India, the Asian Games and now the Hyundai Hopman Cup in Perth has meant that my off-season this year was considerably reduced and the training period had to be short. However, I’ve tried to use this as best as I can, working on my physical fitness and adding a few things to my game.
How much has life changed since appointing a trainer (Heath Mathew)? Are you, for instance, more careful about your regimen, your diet?
I now have a professional who knows what international sport is... he is telling me what to do. That is a great plus.
You must be relatively anonymous in Australia. Do you enjoy it?
What are your views on your fame and endorsements? You have achieved these quite early. Too early, according to some people.
Fame and endorsements are not what I play for. I play because I have a passion for tennis and for earning laurels and respect for my country. However, I’d like to know from “some people” how it is possible to earn “fame and endorsements” at a later stage instead of at 20 when the average retiring age in international women’s tennis is close to 25 years.
It has been said that you are leaving Globosport and are appointing another firm, ICONIX, as your managers. Is this accurate?
That is inaccurate.
Mahesh Bhupathi and his father played a guiding role in your developmental years. But it was Leander Paes with whom you played in Doha. How did you handle the situation?
I’m a professional and when you are playing for your country these things are irrelevant.
You have played mixed doubles with both. How are your equations with either and what were the highlights of either experience?
Mahesh is one of the great backhand court doubles players the world has seen just as Leander’s reflexes at the net and forehand court play is stupendous. I get along wonderfully with both of them — on and off court.
You have spent two years on the circuit now. How would you compare the Sania Mirza of 2005 with the Sania Mirza of 2007?
I’m a more mature and complete player than I was two years ago, although I realise that I still have a long way to go.
What were your best moments of 2006? What were your disappointments?
Beating Martina Hingis in Korea is something I will treasure all my life, especially after having lost 1-6, 0-6 to her only a few days before in Kolkata. Winning the gold and two silver medals in the Asian Games for India and helping India win the Asian Hopman Cup were some of my best moments. Missing out on the team event gold at the Asian Games was a bit of a disappointment.
What did 2006 teach you?
Hopefully, what it taught me will be there for all to see on the tennis courts in 2007.