Paris: Sania Mirza has been one of the most followed celebrities across India ever since she claimed the junior Wimbledon doubles title in 2003.
Earlier this year, she received the Padma Bhushan award from the Indian government for her achievements of being ranked No.1 in the women’s doubles with Martina Hingis and winning a string of Grand Slams in recent months.
She was also named on the prestigious Time magazine’s 100 most influential list. Sania’s journey to No.1 has been a tough and arduous one.
Sania has seen it all. Now she is revealing it in her autobiography which will be released next month. Sania has been outspoken about various issues and is unafraid to flaunt her no-holds-barred attitude.
At times, she has been misunderstood and now she wants to tell her story from her perspective through an autobiography penned by her and her father Imran Mirza who was a sports journalist himself.
Why did she decide to write a book? “The book will be from my point of view and obviously about things that have not been said. Even though there’s been a lot said and written about me on my behalf, it’s never really been said by me. I owe it to myself and my family and to everybody,” she said here during the French Open.
“It’s also more about trying to show the younger players it (success) is very difficult but it’s possible. We have expressed the experiences we have had in our lives. This is what worked for us and while it may not work for everyone it is possible to succeed in many ways.”
What can we expect in her book? “There are so many things. The struggles that we went through personally and as a family. The sacrifices we made. It includes everything — on court and off court including my marriage to (Pakistani cricketer) Shoaib Malik which is a very big part of my life,” Sania adds with a big smile.
“The book is already written and is in the editing stage. Me and my dad have articulated it together. It has 39 chapters. So it is a big book.”
Sania also revealed her sentimental nature, saying her most treasured gift is a Rs 11 contribution that was sent by a retired Indian Army officer.
“I received Rs 11 (a 10 rupee note and a coin) from this retired army officer, with a letter a few years ago. I’d like a signed photograph or autograph. And to me, that was extremely special. I still have that 11 rupees with me, and it’s just something that stands out, always and it always comes back. It’s the thought that matters. Obviously, it was amazing. I had tears in my eyes. It was his way of contributing to the country and his way of showing how he respects me.”
Who were the Indian players she looked up to? “As I was growing up, Mahesh (Bhupathi) and Leander (Paes) were household names and they were always the ones that we had to look up to. In singles, Nirupama Vaidyanathan was the first Indian woman to ever win a round at a Grand Slam before me. So for me, she was a person to look up to.”
“We’re actually good friends now. She understands the struggles I went through because even 10 years before I started, the struggles must have been even more when she started. So for her to get to 120 (she peaked at 115) in the world was unbelievable, coming from that part of the world.”
“And for me to get to top 30 in the world and be there, have a 7-8 year long career. Obviously after that, my body didn’t let it happen and I made that tough call a couple years ago.”
Sania has already put her two tough losses at the French Open — in the women’s doubles third round with partner Swiss legend Martina Hingis while looking to win four slams in a row and a narrow defeat in the mixed doubles final to Paes and Hingis — and is ready to get back to the grind of being a professional.
“I have to go back to India and apply for the UK Visa. Then I have to discuss with Martina (Hingis) about the grasscourt tournament schedule. We will play one week for sure and then start preparation for Wimbledon.”
The life of a professional tennis player is certainly not as easy and glamorous as it appears for the general public and we will get to know more of Sania Mirza the person when her book is released in a few weeks from now.