Sania Mirza holds court on motherhood, handling failures in sport

‘If I have inspired even one mother to live for herself, I will be rather happy’

Sania Mirza with her son (photo: SAI)
Sania Mirza with her son (photo: SAI)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The world of professional tennis may have seen many a supermom, but it takes a lot more than that to be a Sania Mirza in India. Her autobiography, published in 2016 was aptly titled Ace against Odds may have summed up the essence of her journey – but there have been quite a few unwritten chapters since then.

Be it her divorce with Pakistan cricketer Shoaib Malik (made public in end-January), which left her mercilessly trolled on social media or the comeback after the birth of her son Izhaan in 2018 – the strength of character she has shown in the face of these challenges has been exemplary. While only time can tell if Indian tennis can produce another freak success story like the girl from Hyderabad, but it’s difficult to see another Sania coming through.

Having called time on her career last year, the 37-year-old now sees herself as a role model for all those mothers who want to give themselves a second chance to live for themselves as well. ‘’The perception in the society where we come from is that your personal life kind of ends after becoming a mother. However, if I have inspired even one mother in order to live for herself then I will be extremely happy,’’ remarked the former world No.1 doubles player.

A cynosure of all eyes along with world champion and Olympic medal hopeful boxer Nikhat Zareen at a panel discussion of the Revsportz Trailblazers 2.0 conclave, Sania held court on motherhood and how difficult it was to whip herself back into shape – playing her fourth Olympics in Tokyo and be on the Tour again with Izhaan in tow.

Sania Mirza with Nikhat Zareen
Sania Mirza with Nikhat Zareen

‘’ After motherhood, I had put on 20 kilos and hence when I started thinking of making a comeback and playing on the big stage again, people thought I was stretching it a bit too far. Well, four months down the line, I had lost 26 kgs and was back on my way,’’ Sania recalled.

Calling motherhood a kind of ‘reality check,’ the tennis star had a laugh at herself as she felt people around her were focused more on the baby than the mother. ‘’As athletes, we can be very selfish people – bothering about practice schedules, whether to eat pasta or a gluten-free diet today etc. However, as I was lying at the hospital after the C-section delivery, I noticed everyone was bothered more about the baby and not me. It has been an amazing journey since then and all I can say is that motherhood has helped me evolve as a person,’’ she said.

How is Izhaan coming up as a child? ‘’ Right now, you can say he (Izzhan) is five but going on 15. For everything, there is a why – that shows she’s my child. I didn’t know that even a child can have a sense of sarcasm, may be another of my traits,’’ Sania observed to leave the crowd in splits.

On a more serious note, the tennis icon felt that one of the most important life lessons she has learnt from sport is how to deal with failures. ‘’It’s a sport which always gives you a second chance. Failure keeps you motivated so that you can shake it off and come back stronger the next day,’’ she felt.

Asked about how important it is for an upcoming sports star to stay rooted, Sania’s take was: ‘’In life, what eventually matters is the kind of human being you are. Speaking about myself, I can say your family is very important for that grounding – you can be a Sania Mirza outside the house but when you are back home, you are still the same person.’’

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