Dubai: Indian tennis icon Sania Mirza and her Pakistan cricketer-husband Shoaib Malik will join hands to launch their own tennis and cricket schools in Dubai by August, Gulf News has learnt.
“Tennis and cricket together in one academy is something that hasn’t been done before ... There’s a lot of potential in the UAE, especially in Dubai, and we want to nurture that talent. I haven’t spoken about it till now,” said Mirza in an exclusive zoom interview with Gulf News. Her tennis school in the UAE will be a branch of the teaching academy that she launched in her native city Hyderabad in south India.
The six-time grand slam doubles champion and mother to a toddler - who will soon travel to the United Kingdom for her matches - plans to launch this sporting hybrid school by August. Mirza and her husband have a home in Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah. Malik’s upcoming assignment is the Pakistan Super League in Abu Dhabi, where he is a part of the Peshawar Zalmi squad, while Mirza’s goal is to participate in Tokyo Olympics - if all goes well.
Mirza had been one of the shining examples of balancing a sporting career and motherhood. When she isn’t practising hard, she’s busy being a hands-on mother.
You still have the same kind of feelings and emotions as any regular 23-year-old regardless of what you have achieved on the field. Her walking away is fine, but timing of her walking away may be questionable. But I think she was ready and she’s really the best judge of knowing when it’s time to walk away or when to come out with it. I wasn’t able to come out and say it for 12 years of my life
Asked about her thoughts on Japanese world No.2 Naomi Osaka’s decision to quit French Open to protect her mental health and well-being, Mirza threw her weight behind her. “Mental health is very important. I have always been an advocate for people to get help when required and if you have an issue, don’t be ashamed of it. Just because you are a superstar tennis player, it doesn’t make you less human.
‘‘You still have the same kind of feelings and emotions as any regular 23-year-old regardless of what you have achieved on the field. Her walking away is fine, but timing of her walking away may be questionable. But I think she was ready and she’s really the best judge of knowing when it’s time to walk away or when to come out with it. I wasn’t able to come out and say it for 12 years of my life,” said Mirza.
Osaka withdrew from French Open last week, saying the obligatory press conferences worsened her anxiety - especially when a player has had a bad day. Her decision was lauded and blasted in equal measure.
Mirza also reminded that being a world class tennis champion brings an immense amount of pressure with it. “Being high profile puts immense pressure on everything you do. Even the fact that she wants to walk away is being talked about for days after she walked away. So imagine the kind of pressure she’s under. I completely sympathise with her and understand to a certain extent where she’s coming from,” Mirza added.