Sania Mirza is quietly confident that her ‘new wrist’ will stand up to the rigours of top flight tennis when she plays at Wimbledon, starting on Monday.
The 21-year-old missed the French Open after undergoing a reconstructive surgery on her right — the playing — hand in April and returned to action only a fortnight ago, when she played in the Birmingham grass court event.
Grass, a faster surface, suits Sania’s game. But the speed of the surface also means greater stress on the wrist.
Sania is seeded 32 and placed in the fourth quarter which also features Pennetta of the 128-size draw. She plays the unseeded Colombian Catalino Castano in her opening match against whom Sania has a 1-0 record in the first round at the Pattaya Open in Thailand last year.
The Indian star answered HT’s questions via email on her comeback from injury and her chances at Wimbledon.
You have played two tournaments after your wrist injury. How is your hand feeling?
It is still a little painful on certain movements and is expected to remain that way for a while until what my surgeon calls my 'new wrist' adjusts to the impact of the ball and the complexities of a tennis player's movements. However, the good news is that though there is pain, it is not going to damage my wrist.
How would you assess your play in the two tournaments (Birmingham and Holland) - both in terms of form and fitness? Are you back at your best going into Wimbledon?
I cannot expect to be at my best so soon after a wrist surgery. I played one good match against the world no. 23, Flavia Pennetta in Netherlands, which gives me the confidence that I have still have not lost my abilities. But it is definitely going to take a while before I can consistently play at the highest level.
Who will you play doubles with? Is your partnership with Mahesh Bhupathi on this time?
I will play with Bethanie Mattek in the women's doubles at Wimbledon but I will take a call on whether to play mixed depending upon how my wrist feels just before the sign-in.
How did you utilise the time you got during the injury, apart from doing fitness work and fulfilling other professional obligations?
I worked out a lot in the gym. Apart from this, I spent quality time with family and friends and also went for a pilgrimage to Mecca. I practiced in Mumbai for a couple of weeks before coming to England and enjoyed watching the IPL finals live.
Tell us about your new coach. How is he different from the couple of other coaches you have worked with before?
Sven Groeneveld is a very senior coach, who has been around for more than two decades. I've had the good fortune of working with a lot of top level coaches and each one has helped me to improve in different areas. Each player is unique temperamentally and each one has his or her strengths and weaknesses. Sven understands this.
How good is your dad as a coach? Exactly how would you describe your tennis relationship with him ?
He has a very analytical brain and understands me, my game and my temperament. He was a club level player but has followed the game meticulously for over three decades. He has also worked closely with all my coaches and travelled the circuit with me for a decade, clinically absorbing all the techniques and nuances of the modern game. He is my friend, guide and philosopher and I cherish my relationship with him.
It is a frequent complaint that Indian sportspersons, at least when they are growing up, do not respect their coaches. What is your honest assessment of yourself?
I guess you must ask my coaches this question!