In an interview with Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri, Sania Mirza said she trained as hard as a singles player despite choosing to focus on doubles with the aim of becoming the world No 1.
Mirza was at her candid best as she replied to a volley of questions posed by Chhetri during an Instagram chat. The Indian tennis star discussed her success, training method, the challenges of being married to an athlete from another country, social media trolls, being too honest and her dream doubles partner among other things.
Chhetri, who runs the Instagram video series Eleven on Ten where he turns interviewer, had the 33-year-old as his latest guest.
He asked her if she would swap her Grand Slam doubles titles for singles career extension and the Hyderabad-based player was clear that she wanted to be the best in the world, whether singles or doubles, and not be mediocre and ranked lower. Playing doubles gave her that chance as she peaked at world No 1 while her career best singles rank was 27.
“I would want to be No 1 in the world… As athletes we dream of being best in the world. I knew I could be No 1 in doubles and it was one of the biggest achievements,” she said.
She also revealed that she still trained like a singles player, even though she gave up the format. “Obviously, doubles is physically less demanding because you cover half the court but I could not reduce my sessions because of that. Also, I have to feel satisfied when I finish training, I want to feel like I have given my absolute best and go to bed really tired,” she said.
“If I wasn’t able to pull it off, I would have stopped but my body allowed me to do it.”
However, the 33-year-old said the toughest and most physically demanding thing she has done was to give her birth. Her son Izhaan Mirza-Malik was born in 2018 and she returned to tennis only early this year after a maternity break.
On being asked to rate the toughest things she has done, she placed being a mother on top. “Giving birth and raising a child is one of the toughest thing a woman can do,” she said.
In second place was being married to an athlete playing another sport who lives in a different country. Mirza is married to Pakistan cricketer Shoaib Malik and their relationship has often attracted trolls from both sides of the border. She shared several incidents when they have been targetted for seemingly mundane things.
In a rapid fire, Mirza admitted that French Open is her least liked Grand Slam because it is the worst surface for her.
Talking about dream doubles partners she said: “It would be amazing to play with Serena Williams. I have played against her before. I am lucky that I have already had the chance to play with my ideal mixed doubles partner, Roger Federer.”
The Indian and Swiss players had partnered for a match in the International Premier Tennis League in New Delhi back in 2014. “He is a freak, a genius. There is no comparison to what he does. I had the best seat in the house that day,” she said.
But if there is one attribute she could borrow from another player, it would be Rafael Nadal’s mentality.
“Raw fighting spirit of Rafael Nadal is one trait I would like to have. I don’t show that much emotion, and he shows so much. The effort… where you feel like every point is the last point,” she explained.
You can watch the full chat here: