New Delhi: India's star tennis player Sania Mirza, whose career has been plagued by several injuries of late, has now decided to completely shift her focus on playing doubles only.
The 26-year-old player, who could not win a medal at the just concluded London Olympics, said she still enjoyed playing singles but the time has come for her to concentrate only on doubles in view of her recent injuries. Her wrist and knee injuries have troubled her and even threatened a pre-mature end to her career.
Sania also said in an interview to PTI that she has still not decided to continue her successful alliance with Mahesh Bhupathi for the mixed doubles event on the Tour.
The 26-year-old player said the time has come for her to concentrate only on doubles in view of her recent injuries.
The Hyderabadi had achieved a career-best singles rank of 27 in 2007 but had subsequently faded due to injuries and form. Qualifying for the singles fourth round of the US Open in 2005 was highlight of her Grand Slam performance.
Her major success came while playing in doubles as she won two Grand Slams (mixed doubles with Bhupathi) and 14 WTA Tour titles with different partners. She won one singles title when she triumphed at Hyderabad in 2005. PTI spoke to Sania about her future plans post Olympics.
Q) A defeat in the quarter-final at the London Games, albeit with good fight, must have left you heartbroken.
Sania: A defeat at any stage, whether in the first round or in the final of a major tournament, is always disappointing. But as sportsmen, we learn to pick ourselves up to bounce back and move on for the next challenge.
Q) Can you still take the load of playing both singles and doubles on the Tour?
Sania: I have played very little singles since I got back after my third surgery in January and I still have too many aches and pains in my body. It's been 20 years since I started playing tennis and I've spent a decade playing singles and doubles professionally. I still enjoy singles and may play in an occasional tournament or at the Fed Cup if my country needs me. But I think the time has now come for me to completely shift my focus onto doubles.
Q) You have medals from many multi-discipline events such as Asian Games, CWG, Afro-Asian Games but the kitty would be incomplete without an Olympic medal. Or you believe you can give it another try in Rio.
Sania: As someone who has taken immense pride in playing for the nation in whatever role I was asked to don, I am completely at peace with myself, knowing that I've given it my everything as far as the Olympics or other mulch-discipline events are concerned.
I would have felt incomplete if I had never been a part of the Olympics, which to me is the ultimate experience of the spirit of brotherhood and camaraderie between all sportsmen of various countries of the world. I think there is a bit of destiny involved in winning. The greatest of them all, Roger Federer has never struck gold in singles in which he is the undisputed King of the game and that does not make him any lesser singles player. Neither has Pete Sampras ever won an Olympic medal.
Tennis players are very fortunate that unlike some disciplines of sport, in mega-sporting events like the Grand Slams, they have a huge platform to showcase their talents on the world stage once every few months.
Q) Olympics is a big dream of every athlete. What's your next target? What's the motivation to keep you going, pushing hard, day in and day out.
Sania: I have a passion for playing tennis and enjoy the workload and struggles of performing in this amazing global sport. I would like to improve my personal best ranking of seven in the world and try to win another Slam or two before I stop playing. One of the thrills of playing at the top tennis centres of the world is to see the Indian flag go up whenever I'm participating in these events. That's enough motivation for any Indian who has the opportunity to perform at these tournaments.
Q) Do you hope to play at the next Olympics in Brazil and try win a medal there?
Sania: Four years is too long a time in a tennis player's life to make any realistic assessment of chances.
Q) Leander Paes had said that while playing in your company he enjoyed the game a lot. How was your experience playing with him after two years gap?
Sania: Leander is a very seasoned doubles player and it was fun to play with him.
Q) Both of you played well together, do you still feel, you could have played better/won medal with Mahesh Bhupathi?
Sania: It's too late in the day to dwell on the 'ifs' and 'buts' and serves no purpose whatsoever!