Indian tennis player Sania Mirza, who will receive the prestigious Khel Ratna award at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Saturday, said that her former mixed doubles partner Mahesh Bhupathi is also a deserving candidate for the honour and hoped he will receive the recognition in near future.
Mirza, who is only the second tennis player after Leander Paes to be named for the award, said such a recognition motivates a sportsperson to excel him or her for the country. "We play for the country and if the government gives recognition for our achievement, we feel a sense of pride. I thank the Sports Ministry for nominating me for the award. This will encourage and inspire me to do better. It is humbling for for me," she said on the eve of the award function.
"I am not from the Sports Ministry but Mahesh (Bhupathi) is a great player and he has done a lot for Indian tennis. Hopefully, he will also get the award," she said.
The 28-year-old Hyderabadi, who has three mixed doubles titles to her credit besides winning the prestigious Wimbledon women's doubles title this year partnering Martina Hingis of Switzerland and also securing the world number one position in the doubles WTA rankings, said 2015 has been a dream-come-true year for her. "This has been my best year. I got number one position and won a Grand Slam. Since we are number one I and Martina (Hingis) are expected to win each and every match. I want to raise the bar higher and higher," Mirza said.
Mirza also thanked the US Open organisers for cooperating with her by postponing her matches to let her personally receive the Khel Ratna award. "The US Open organisers are very considerate and they said our matches will start a couple of days later. They know the importance of the award and they said our matches will start Wednesday or Thursday," she said.
Asked about next year's Rio Olympics, she said, "I just set short-term goals and I am not thinking about Rio Olympics. Who knows how I will be in the next few months and the same goes for other Indian athletes who will represent the country in Rio. But I hope we do well and win a medal in Rio."