Dubai Duty Free Tennis: Sania Mirza bids adieu with no regrets

The former doubles world No.1, partnering American Madison Keys, went down to Veronika Kudermetova and Liudmila Samsonova 6-4, 6-0

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Leslie Wilson Jr

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Sania Mirza blows a kiss to the crowd after her match in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday. — Supplied photo
Sania Mirza blows a kiss to the crowd after her match in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday. — Supplied photo

Published: Tue 21 Feb 2023, 10:27 PM

Last updated: Wed 22 Feb 2023, 12:33 AM

The comes a point in life when you sometimes have to give up the things you love the most. Your favourite sneakers, jeans or even home.

And it always hurts.

On Tuesday evening, at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Indian star Sania Mirza said goodbye to the sport that has meant everything to her and her loved one for over 20 beautiful years.

The former doubles world No.1, partnering American Madison Keys, went down to Veronika Kudermetova and Liudmila Samsonova 6-4, 6-0.

Yes, time catches up with everyone, even greats like Sania, who perform physically demanding roles. Whether she should continue is another question altogether because Sania, who is a permanent resident in Dubai, had made up her mind that it was the right moment to call time on her glittering career.

What did she need to consider when ending one’s career on a high, unlike some other sportsperson who did not do themselves any favours by retiring too late?

“It's been a long career, I'm looking forward to the next phase of my life,” said Sania, hugging her four-year-old son Izhaan, as if seeking comfort in his warmth.

“To be able to do this on my own terms, to be able to do it when I'm playing well is great. I'll still be around tennis. It's just not competing.

“However, I feel very grateful and satisfied for everything that I've been able to do.”

Ever since she turned pro in 2003 and began to forge a stellar career that would see her amass six Grand Slam doubles titles and win medals at the Asian and Commonwealth Games, Sania gave hope to every Indian by proving beyond doubt that anything is possible if you put your heart to it.

Describing the emotions that were running through her head, Sania said: “I'm actually not feeling anything right now. Actually, I was really emotional yesterday (Monday). I cried on my way to the match. I wasn't crying because I was sad. It's a way of me emoting. Just overwhelming I guess.

“Right now I feel like I'm so lucky to have him (referring to Izhaan) and to look forward to the normal things of life as well., I don't feel anything. I feel pretty numb, to be very honest, but I think it's going to hit me in a couple hours.”

When told that fellow players Victoria Azarenka and Aryana Sabalenka believed that she still had a couple more years of solid tennis in her Sania responded: “I'm really grateful I have that much respect. But I think life's about new challenges and moving on.

“For me, I just don't have that drive any more to be playing at this level, the amount of work that goes into it, to take care of my body, the physical part of it, the mental, emotional part of it is just something that I don't have that drive. I think if you love something so much, you shouldn't have to push yourself (to do it) that much,” Sania added.

“It's not like I'm retiring at 25 years old. I'm 36. I've had a full tennis life. I've been able to achieve many of my goals and more.”

But she did miss one of her lifetime ambitions. “I think if there was something I could get back, it would probably be the Rio Olympics, to win that medal. It was one of my biggest dreams to win a medal for India, having been at the Olympics four times, which was huge for me," Sania said.

“We came so close to winning that medal (Sania and Rohan Bopanna were beaten by Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram). If there was something that I could, get another shot at it, it would probably be that.”

Meanwhile, top seed and world No.1 Iga Swiatek stayed on course for a maiden Dubai title when she broke the hearts of a large crowd of Filipinos when she overwhelmed Leylah Fernandes, whose mother is from the Philippines, 6-1, 6-1.

Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka, tipped as the player most likely to challenge Swiatek for the title, also reached the quarterfinals with a punishing 6-0, 6-1 victory over Lauren Davis.

As on day one several seeds fell by the wayside including fourth seed Frenchwoman Carolina Garcia, who succumbed 7-5, 6-4 to American Madison Keys, while sixth and seventh seeds Maria Sakkari and Daria Kastkina, also exited the tournament.

Sakkari looked out of sorts on the bright blue stadium’s new DecoTurf courts and lost 6-1, 6-2 to Karolina Pliskova, while Daria Kasatkina went down to Barbora Krejcikova after a hard-fought three-setter, 4-6, 6-4, 5-7.

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