Tennis

Sania wins Hobart and hearts

Pic Credits- Getty Images

Sania Mirza scripted the most amazing comeback to the WTA circuit after a gap of more than two years. She attained motherhood during the period, and came back to win her first title in her very first attempt. Out of the three men in her life, Imran Mirza, Shoaib Malik and Izhaan Mirza Malik, the little one turned out to be the luckiest for her. It was his mother’s first professional venture into the tennis courts, and he has a trophy to play with. It cannot be more satisfying for mom Sania.

After Izhaan grows up he can challenge his father Shoaib, and grandfather Imran, that his presence has been luckiest for Sania. His first visit has bought her the winner’s trophy, that too after a gap of more than two years. To make the news sweeter for the family, Shoaib Malik has also made a comeback to the Pakistan T20I squad.

With Olympics scheduled for the current year, there was pressure on Sania to make a comeback. She herself was also interested to try and play the Tokyo Olympics and win a medal for India. The medal was very near for her in Rio, yet ended quite far, as they lost the Mixed Doubles Bronze Medal match. Sania herself was very sure about when she wanted to hit the courts, as a part of her comeback plan. She and her team took time, to balance her motherhood and tennis practice, and attaining physical fitness at optimum levels.

Since Shoaib Malik was also busy playing cricket for Pakistan, it was important for Sania to look after Izhaan also. Her entire team deserves the credit for this success, including her family at Hyderabad.

#42 title, big confidence booster

Sania won her 42nd WTA Tour title at Hobart. More than the title, this will do a world of good to the confidence level of her and her support team. The entire nation along with Sania and her team will believe now, that Sania will be able to qualify for Olympics. The Olympics is still a long way. Qualification cycle for the Olympics is at its half way stage. After the win at Hobart, if she can manage a good run at the Australian Open starting next week, it will give her the much needed points for Olympic qualification.

Sania cannot be maintaining a gruelling travel schedule, like she had before motherhood. Izhaan is still an infant, so its hard on him to fly inter continental flights, every week to run from one tennis tournament to another. Sania will have to make judicious choices about the tournaments she participates, and also the distance she needs to fly. Her child is as important a factor, may be more than her professional goals. The Olympic medal is the dream which she is likely to pursue.

The first Grand Slam of the year, Australian Open is next on calendar for Sania Mirza and her Ukranian partner. If they get a good draw, and can manage to go deep into the draw, or at least into the second week, Sania will feel convinced on her decision to make the comeback. She is also playing Mixed Doubles with Rajeev Ram who won the Mixed Title last year.

Way Ahead

Sania wanted to make an assesment of how her body performs over the Hobart International and Australian Open, before taking any decisions on the path ahead. The Hobart title will definitely give her the confidence of continuing with her comeback on the tour, and she may extend her partnership with Nadiia Kichenok. Nadiia is ranked 34th in the Doubles. With Sania’s protected ranking of 17, they can get entry into six more tournaments after the Australian Open.

Sania is likely to play at Dubai, which has been a favourite tournament for her, and in the Fed Cup Zonal Rounds for India, post Australian Open. She may skip the clay season, but play at Roland Garros, as she needs ranking on her side for Olympic qualification. The French Open is the only Grand Slam, she is yet to win in Women’s Doubles. The two Masters 1000 tournaments in US hard courts in March could also be in her itinery.

The Olympic qualification cycle ends with the completion of Roland Garros. She will have a fair idea of her playing for India at Olympics, before the Wimbledon this year. Sania has to judiciously choose the tournaments where she wants to enter with her protected ranking. The protected ranking is unlikely to help her in Olympic qualification, as her protected ranking is 17, and automatic qualification is upto the 10th rank only.

Sania could not have asked for a better start to her campaign in Olympic year. She is making a comeback after more than two years, and she wins her first tournament. She comes back to play as a mother, and wins the first tournament back on court. A week back, this would have been the best dream for Sania. It is a reality now, needs to make it count.

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