What she said:
“We’re not a sporting nation, we’re a cricketing nation. We need to accept that and stop pretending to be a sporting nation.”
Sania Mirza hopes that the International Premier Tennis League inspires more people to follow tennis and take up the sport.
“Leagues are becoming like a cult now. It popularises the sport. Look at what it did for kabaddi. The IPTL is going to do the same for tennis. We have some of the greatest players in the world coming and playing in the country. It’s going to be huge. To me, it’s the awareness that’s going to matter. We’re not a sporting nation, we’re a cricketing nation. We need to accept that and stop pretending to be a sporting nation. Why don’t we produce sporting stars? Well, because there’s no awareness. There’s no help. People don’t believe they can be a professional athlete, they think they can only be a cricketer. I think leagues like this help to motivate and inspire people to take up the sport. A lay man will get a chance to see Roger Federer playing live. How can you not be inspired after seeing his class?”
Mirza described her recent meeting with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“I did meet him alone though, but we spoke about my sister. He remembered my sister, which was pretty amazing. I still can’t believe it. She was a pistol shooter and he was the CM of Gujarat. He met her at some event. I had no clue that he even met her. It was amazing. Anyway, at the meeting he just asked me if I was happy and if I needed assistance for anything. It’s pretty amazing for a PM because he’s trying to help and trying to change things in the country. He is motivating.”
On not playing singles any more:
“Yeah, I do miss playing singles. But I do know that it was the right decision to concentrate on doubles. You can’t fight nature. If your body is screaming every morning, you can’t be stubborn and say you are going to keep on playing and kill the body. I want to be able to walk when I’m 40. I don’t want to be in pain all the time. And it’s actually very upsetting because you wake up in the morning and you’re not able to work as much as you want to. I have a certain joint condition. I’ve had three surgeries. So yeah, at that moment it was the toughest call. I was still top-100 in the world, so it was not easy. I do miss it. But look at the bigger picture. If I was still playing singles I wouldn’t still be playing tennis any more. I’d probably be injured. It wasn’t about ‘if getting injured’, it was the question of ‘when’.”
What she really meant:
“To repeat a cliche (ad nauseam) ‘Cricket is a religion for us Indians and cricketers our gods. Other sporting heroes are minor deities to be recalled only on festive days (days when we actually win something)’. Every young boy wants to be a cricketer and will not even consider playing another sport.”
What she definitely didn’t:
“I should have this statement emblazoned on my tee. Wouldn’t that be cool?”