Sania Mirza – Standing for Empowerment

Sania Mirza
Sania Mirza (Image: X)

The piece starts with an announcement: Sania Mirza joins the list of stellar speakers at the Trailblazers Conclave 2.0 presented by Tata Steel, on March 7-8 at ITC Royal Bengal in Kolkata.

She was much like Aamir Khan’s character in Three Idiots. A once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon who came as a breath of fresh air for Indian tennis. And that’s what begs the question, how did Sania happen? What made Sania ‘The Sania’? How could a middle-class family from Hyderabad with no background in elite sport produce a champion like her? What’s the backstory?

Here’s Sania. “Like I have alluded to in my autobiography, ‘In the summer holidays, we went to Bengaluru to spend a few weeks with my father’s uncle. It was Wimbledon time and my parents were watching Steffi Graf play Jana Novotna in the 1993 women’s final on television. When I walked into the room, Dad looked at me indulgently and said to mom, ‘Hey, what if someday Sania becomes a professional tennis player and gets to play at Wimbledon on Centre Court’?”

“Everyone present in the room chuckled at the outrageous suggestion. In those days, it was quite unthinkable, the idea of playing tennis seriously and actually making a career of it, much less being a world-class woman player. But my mother, partly because she was naive about the game, took to the idea. She went teary-eyed and a smile brightened her face.”

“Mom knew exactly how important sport was to Dad. She understood very little about tennis then, but having watched the excitement of Wimbledon unfold on television, she knew what a major achievement it would be if her daughter actually made it to the famed Centre Court. ‘If Sania has a chance of playing at Wimbledon, I won’t leave a stone unturned to make it happen’, she said, rather prophetically.”

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“It is exactly what Nassima did,” said Imran, her father. “That’s Nassima for you.”

While Imran was the hands-on coach, Nassima was the protective shield. Not once did Imran say a word to Sania or show dejection after losing a close match. In fact, winning or losing was par and he was happy if she put in her best effort. “This is what made Sania the player that she is. She was able to absorb pressure knowing it was her job to give her best. The result was not something she ever worried about and it allowed her to play freely during critical points,” said Imran before going on to add: “Producing a top quality tennis player from our background wasn’t easy. You needed to think out of the box.”

Sania stands for empowerment and is evidence of how post motherhood you can continue to play sport and succeed. She is an inspiration to millions and will forever be.

Delighted that she will be joining us at the conclave.

Also Read: Achievers, thought-leaders can make Trailblazers 2.0 a gamechanger for Indian sports

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