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Al Habtoor Tennis: Sania Mirza ready for new challenges

Dubai: Indian tennis star Sania Mirza is pleased that she is in a position to strike a delightful balance between motherhood and tennis as she awaits a full season ahead from next month.

Mirza, who was at the Habtoor Grand Beach Resort and Spa to cheer Fed Cup teammate Ankita Raina on the final day of the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge over the weekend, said she is keen to work out the best possible option in balancing her pursuit of sport and homely responsibilities as a mother.

“I am as ready as everybody else for the new season. Perhaps, the other players have been playing a few more weeks, but I have to see things not just as an athlete but as a parent as well,” Sania told Gulf News.

“It is difficult to have a two-year-old on the road especially when there is a pandemic going on. So playing tournaments is not an easy decision to take. But I will play as and when I can with the hope also that things will improve a little bit with a vaccine, and then things will get back to normal.”

Married to former Pakistan cricket captain Shoaib Malik, the couple have a son Izhaan. And Sania doesn’t see herself make any compromises when it comes to choosing between her sport and her son. Finding the UAE “more relaxed”, the family moved to their residence in Dubai some four months back. Since then, Sania has been training regularly with the hope that professional tennis will make a proper return starting 2021.

“Honestly I don’t know what sort of season we are in for in 2021. Perhaps, the best is to just wait and see. At this juncture I can’t tell you that I will play 15 weeks a year simply because I don’t know if 15 weeks is something that I can achieve with a young son with me. There are so many issues that go along with it in my case especially because of our son,” Sania said.

“The best scenario would be for the vaccine to come and for us to have a normal life again. So we will just wait and watch and see what happens. I am here at least for this month till a concrete calendar is worked out by the WTA.”

The WTA season typically begins with events in Auckland, Brisbane and Shenzhen, but none have approved the holding of tennis events so far. WTA chief Steve Simon had indicated last week that qualifying rounds of the Australian Open will be played before the players are transported to Melbourne for the season’s first Major.

A former world No. 1 in doubles, Sania has won six Grand Slam titles in her career spanning nearly two decades. The hunger for more Majors is of course one of the goals heading into a new season. “Honestly, it wouldn’t be realistic to set any goals. In fact, it would be unrealistic to set any goals simply because there is so much uncertainty with everything,” she said.

Ironically, Sania’s last major exploit came alongside Raina as India made its only entry into the World Group of the Fed Cup in the first week of March this year. After that, Sania landed in Miami for the North American season when the world closed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was too bad as I was really playing well when I got back with that Fed Cup win. And then the tournament got cancelled and things have been tough. But, it has been the same for everybody. So, we’ve got to stay healthy and grateful in these uncertain times,” Sania said.

“Right now, it’s about being healthy and safe. I came here three or four months ago. I have been here for a while. It is a lot better here. We were a bit more restricted back home in India. Here it is bit more open. It has been good as I have been hitting for the last few weeks and hopefully, let us see what the new year brings for us.”

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