I don’t want our child to grow up with a father who just pops up for 2 days in 2 months

I don’t want our child to grow up with a father who just pops up for 2 days in 2 months

Sania Mirza speaks her mind on the issues surrounding tennis, her marriage and why she has no plans to become a mommy just yet

    She’s lost a lot of weight, but she has definitely not lost her feisty attitude. In the capital for a badminton event — an auction — Sania Mirza is raring to go, and says,“Just for this,I didn’t sleep all night, despite having a gruelling schedule, so that I could do my homework in time for this auction.” That she’s the brand ambassador for a sport she’s got nothing to do with doesn’t daunt her. “If it serves the purpose, gives the sport the much-needed push, I’m all for it,” she says. And even as she laughs uproariously and tells her manager to “tell them I’m dead, that I just rolled over and died,” when the latter comes in with yet another request for interview, Sania crosses one 7-inch stilettoed foot over the other, waves her hand, her huge rock of a solitaire ring dazzling, and settles down to answer our questions.
    “At five o’clock in the morning, I was reading the names of these badminton players, because there are a lot of names I’ve never heard of,” she sighs. “But it’s been fun. Being a brand ambassador is not easy — people think that you just get the money, but it’s not as easy as it looks — we have a lot of work to do. I had to shoot all day yesterday, and as a result I finished my practice — my tennis practice at 12 in the night, took the 5am flight, and here I am now. It’s pure mehnat,” she laughs. And what about being the vice-president of the Indian Tennis Association? No mehnat there? She’d been quite furious at the time when the whole Bhupathi-Paes controversy had ruptured the calm of the Indian tennis scenario.
    “Look, I think what happened last year during Olympics was tough on the sport, and definitely tough on us players on an emotional level. Our personal relationships took a beating, and it was not cool, extremely uncool, actually, and I had to raise my point. I have always been open about whatever I felt is not right.
    As a sport, I hope no sport goes through what we did, and I sure hope it is all firmly in the past, because it was extremely dirty and mucky, and everyone was throwing dirt on everyone else, it was awful. I also think we’ve moved on from there, become better, had talks with each other, and yes, we’ve formed this Indian Tennis Players Association — where Mahesh, Leander, Somdev and I are also involved. The biggest positive is that every tennis player has come under one roof for the first time in Indian tennis. And now, the situation is already better than last year’s when neither wanted to see the other’s face. I think we’re all fine as individuals, the problem comes when we have to be a team. But then, there are cons to being an individual player as well. You have to bear the financial burden all by yourself, nobody supports you, you’re so totally on your own – at least that’s how it was when I was young. It was not big. When I used to say I wanted to play at Wimbledon, they used to laugh in my face and say, ‘what are you talking about, you’re from Hyderabad, and you’re supposed to… cook’. That’s one of the notions that people have in this side of the world – it is our ‘culture’, within quotes, you know, to say what a woman can or cannot do,” says Sania.
    A ‘culture’, not that she’s said it, that also extends to telling her and other women players what they can or cannot wear on court? “That too,” she laughs. “When people play abroad, these are the last things on their mind. Of course, their fashion sense or lack of it does get discussed, but not like this, if you know what I mean,” she sighs again, adding, “I don’t know if it takes a toll on the game or not, but it definitely takes a toll in terms of your mental approach to life in general. It’s not easy. I always say it’s not easy being a celebrity in this country, and being a female celebrity is much harder. You come under undue,unfair scrutiny.I,for one,can surely speak for myself in this regard. I have come under some very,very unfair focus over the years for no reason whatsoever. Maybe it wasn’t exciting enough for them to talk about my forehand and backhand anymore… But I took it as a compliment that they did it to sell the newspapers, and I helped them do that.”
    Oh, and she also got married to a Pakistani cricket player. Maybe now, she likes that game more than her own? This brings about a laugh again. She says, “Oh, but I have always loved cricket, always watched the matches. In fact, the first time I met Shoaib was at an Indo-Pak match. Obviously, I’ve become more involved in the sport; it is discussed at home and everywhere else too. And Shoaib likes tennis. The best part is that we don’t have to fight over what channels to watch at home – we can watch cricket or tennis. I am just not the saas-bahu serial kind,” she pauses, “Do I look the kind? No, na? I sometimes sit with my mother and watch a couple of them when I am here, but that’s about it.”
    And how else has marriage changed their lives? “Not much, really. I still want to play singles, if my body allows it (she’s had injuries and surgeries), but the fact is, when we got married, people suddenly thought that we were trying to bring about political changes, and all that. That’s definitely not what we were gunning for, that’s not why people get married, you know – we just fell in love like any two youngsters and marriage was the next step. Basically, we’re together, and that’s it. Yes, I do want a family at some point of time, and that means kids. But I am still playing and so is he, and before we got married, we sat down and sorted out our priorities. He’ll probably play longer than I will, in any case, and yes, I would like my child to grow up with a father – Shoaib travels 30 weeks a year by himself, and I don’t want our child to grow up with a father who just pops in for two days in two months. Right now, we’re not into that mode at all,” she clarifies.

Sania Mirza

Sania Mirza