Sania Mirza: I believe you can have it all

first_imgThe picture of poise and perfection, all of Sania Mirza’s dignified grace is tempered by a phone call from her mother, Nasima. Bursting into charming Hyderabadi Urdu, Mirza in an instant becomes one of us. A few moments later, her cheerful banter with her staff and crew, her ‘entourage’ as,The picture of poise and perfection, all of Sania Mirza’s dignified grace is tempered by a phone call from her mother, Nasima. Bursting into charming Hyderabadi Urdu, Mirza in an instant becomes one of us.A few moments later, her cheerful banter with her staff and crew, her ‘entourage’ as she jokingly calls them, firmly roots her as the self-effacing star she is. The 28-year-old, India’s most successful female tennis player with this year’s Wimbledon win and three mixed doubles grand slams in her kitty, walks into our meeting in a figure-hugging grey maxi dress and the en vogue Lennon-esque sunglasses. Clearly, she likes being a girly girl just as much as she enjoys being one of the boys on tour. She has been crowned doubles world number 1 and recently won her first Wimbledon title; a dream come true. Both are firsts for Indian women in tennis, but by no means has it been easy for Mirza to get this far. Her 12-year-long journey through the international tournament circuits has been disrupted by controversies revolving around her personal choices, fatwas about her clothing on court; debates on her relationships, and a serious wrist injury.”She is a fighter,” says Mahesh Bhupathi, who has known her since she was 14 years old. “Not many people would understand how hard it is to recover and rehabilitate when you have undergone surgery. She is now number 1 in the world in doubles after having three surgeries. Her ability to fight adversity is what makes her special in my eyes,” he adds about his former mixed doubles partner, with whom he bagged the 2012 French Open title. As a female Muslim tennis player, she has probably had to face far more controversies than someone else in her place might have, believes Bhupathi. “But she has dealt with it like a champion,” he says.advertisementSTORY OF SUCCESSThis year may have been an exceptionally good one for Mirza, with her partnership with Swiss player Martina Hingis, winning her the Indian Wells Masters, the Miami Masters, the Family Circle Cup, and finally the title at Wimbledon. It was at Wimbledon where she began her career with the Junior title in 2003. But it has taken dogged persistence and resilience to get this far. “To be successful, you have to have strength,” Mirza rationalises.”It doesn’t have to be tennis or any other sport, just in general. You’ve got to be stubborn and not be easily distracted to be able to achieve something. Especially as a girl in our country, you must believe you belong. Empowerment is not about what you wear and it is not about being modern. It is about believing you belong in the world of men. So what if no one else has done it before?” she declares.When as a teenager, she’d have classmates and friends who’d want to be IAS officers or doctors, there she was dreaming of something completely unheard of. She often found herself wondering if she should follow the herd. “But thankfully I didn’t. My parents were there to guide me towards what I really wanted to do,” says Mirza, who appreciates how lucky she has been to have a strong support system in her parents-Nasima and Imran Mirza. Comparing her personality to her mother’s, she claims it was from Nasima, a homemaker, that she gained the inspiration to fight against all odds in her life to be where she is today. Recognising her potential, her father, a builder who had played more cricket than he had tennis, took up the mantle of being her coach.”Even when she was about six or seven, Sania showed a lot of promise, although it was too early then to foresee her full potential. When we sent her to a class at that age, about two or three months into her practice, her coach called me and said, ‘you should come and see what your daughter is doing.’ She has always been dedicated to the game and her focus was unwavering even back then. She was a quick learner too,” recalls the proud father.Even now, no matter where she’s playing and against whom, Mirza’s eyes always dart to her father to gauge his reaction, reveals movie director Farah Khan, who has been a close friend of the tennis star for the past eight years. “It’s her love for family that I admire the most about her. I’ve seen thousands of people become stars, but she wears her stardom well and doesn’t let it get to her head. Neither failure nor success changes her,” says Khan. Level-headed, funloving and down-to-earth, is how Khan describes Mirza. “She’s been through so much in her life, but it’s her family who keeps her grounded,” she adds.advertisementOFF THE COURTHer crazy schedule means she has little time at home in Dubai with husband, Pakistani cricketer, Shoaib Malik. And yet the two, undeterred by the constant rumours of their marriage hitting shaky ground, have found a way to make it work. Ask her if the India-Pakistan divide ever comes in the way, especially during the nail-biting cricket matches, and Mirza laughs it off. “You make it sound so dramatic. In truth, we hardly ever talk about sport; maybe football once in a while. It’s not like I watch matches with him waving an Indian flag.Besides, I’d like to believe that we have more than just sport to bond us,” she says. Her parents and her little sister Anam, 21, who continue to live in Hyderabad, had the chance to celebrate her world number 1 title with her. “Because it happened in the middle of the year, I didn’t really have time to celebrate in a big way. I was on a flight for 10 hours and came to Hyderabad for the Fed Cup. But I was cutting cakes everyday. On Friday night, the week after, we had a felicitation ceremony in Hyderabad where people I cared about were there,” reveals Mirza. The Khans, Farah and her brother Sajid, were there as well. Playing continuously for seven weeks straight, she finally managed to get some time off in Hyderabad and then it was back to work and dressing up for the camera for us in Mumbai.”I consider this the work part that comes with being a celebrity and a star. It’s hectic, but I’ve always enjoyed working both on and off the court. Of course, I have to make sure I’m doing well on court. If I’m not winning, no one’s going to want me to do this, so that’s primary,” says Mirza with a laugh. But as a tennis player, she believes, there’s never enough time to celebrate wins or mourn losses. “Either way, you have to get back to the court. In a way, it gives you a kind of hope to keep trying even if you have a bad loss. It keeps you grounded. The year goes on, the matches continue, and it keeps me inspired to be number 1,” she adds.When in Hyderabad, Mirza starts her day at 6.30 in the morning. “That’s when I practise. I have breakfast; go to the gym for a workout. It is a four-to-six-hour physical day,” says the offensive baseliner, who uses her powerful groundstrokes to cover for her weakness with pace. But if she is a tigress on court, Mirza seems quite the opposite off it. And if her little sister is to be believed, Mirza is more of a homebody than a party animal. “When she’s at home, she gets so lazy that she barely gets out of the bed. She loves doing absolutely nothing. For Sania, a perfect day off would be lying in bed all day watching television,” says Anam, a college student.advertisementThat’s exactly how she likes spending her time with Khan, too. “We just sit in bed and watch Bigg Boss together. Sometimes Tabu, the actor, joins us, and it’s a bitchfest,” laughs the director. Khan, who was in London at the time of the tournament at Wimbledon, went to watch Mirza play live. “She was so worried about us, and wanted to make sure we were all right and taken care of even though she was about to start her match,” recalls the filmmaker, touched by Mirza’s thoughtfulness.Laidback, accommodating and extremely caring, she is also someone you could describe as a yaaron ka yaar. “My personality is more like a guy’s I suppose-I am not dramatic when it comes to relationships, so that way, it’s easier to be friendly. I think that is probably what makes it easier for me to hang out with boys-Mahesh (Bhupathi), Rohan (Bopanna), and Somdev (Devvarman)-rather than the girls while on tour. Even at home, my best friends have always been guys. Maybe it’s the athlete in me, which naturally veers me towards them,” says Mirza.With Steffi Graf and Roger Federer as her idols, the tennis star, appointed as the UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador for South Asia in 2014, has most certainly become an inspiration and an icon for young Indian women. Recommended for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award by the Sports Ministry, she has strong opinions and is confident enough to voice them. Ask her whether it is possible for women to ‘have it all’ and she readily offers her take on feminism and equality.”I may not be a mother yet, but I see a lot of them on tour. I want to have kids soon and I am keen to start a family. I’ve seen so many tennis players take a year off to be a mother, and then when they return to the circuit, their husbands are so supportive; it’s wonderful to see. I think that’s what equality is all about. And I think in this way, women can have it all. We need to believe that,” concludes Mirza.With inputs from Mona RamavatStyling: Karuna LaunganiClothes: White shirt, pleated full skirt; both from Zara. Leather tie-up heels, from Stuart Weitzman. Silver bracelet, from AquamarineHair and make-up: Bianca Louzadolast_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *