Sania Mirza at the Fed Cup by BNP Paribus on 6th March, 2020. Photo Clint Egbert/Gulf News
Sania Mirza looks on at the Fed Cup in Dubai Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: India’s greatest women’s tennis player Sania Mirza has hailed the contribution from the young bunch of girls for the country’s long overdue entry into the Fed Cup play-offs.

Sania, who has been the mainstay on the Indian squad since her Fed Cup debut in 2003, was instrumental in India making history after earning a play-off spot against Latvia next month.

Sania played in three ties last week and on all occasions India managed to sneak through because of the doubles. She first teamed up with Ankita Raina to beat South Korean pair of Na-Lae Han and Na Ri Kim 6-4, 6-4, before winning 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 against Chinese Taipei’s Latisha Chan and En Shuo Liang and then against Indonesia’s Aldila Sutjiadi and Priska Madelyn Nugroho 7-6, 6-0 on the final day on Saturday.

“It’s great to be able to see this historic moment in my second innings, and I am glad that I was able to play my part in this success,” Sania told Gulf News.

“I am like the elder one in this squad even though all of these girls are playing matches regularly. I have to use my experience and I am pleased that I was able to do so to pull the team through in difficult moments this week. In the end, I think everybody has played their part. And as the older and more experienced member, I have to play my part to guide them whenever I can. I was able to do that today and was able to bring out the best tennis when we needed it the most,” she added.

China topped while India finished second in the Asia/Oceania Group 1 Fed Cup qualifying that concluded last weekend. With three top-40 players in their ranks, China dominated to win all five ties, while India came in second with a 4-1 record. The one blemish on the China team was a set dropped by world No. 29 Qiang Wang against India’s Ankita Raina.

Ankita Raina
Ankita Raina in action in Dubai at the Fed Cup Image Credit: Courtesy Mauricio Ramos

“This place in the play-offs is a huge step for womens tennis in India. We are coming from a country where womens tennis was redundant like 15 years ago. And now we a really good bunch of girls, who also need to make that next step, be it into the top-100 or into the top-50. This competition is going to give them the confidence that they can compete against the best even though both [Ankita and Rutuja Bhosale] lost tough matches against Wang and Shuai Zhang,” she added.

“It is now really important for them and it is really the key for them to believe that they can beat anyone on any given day,” Sania stressed.

Personally, Sania – who will turn 34 later this year – doesn’t know what sort of future lies ahead for her while appearing for her country. “I have to take it day by day as my body really reacts very differently now. It could be just age or it could be child birth. I don’t know. I am a few years older than the last time I played and I know my body doesn’t recover as well,” Sania recounted.

“Last night was a rough night and I didn’t get to sleep till 4 am. And then I have a child who wakes up for food a couple of times during the night. After that, to come out here and get that intensity going is a tough ask. Mentally, I think I can do it but I think is is more the body. It is really day to day,” she added.

“But that said, I am here for moments like these. This is why I made a comeback - to try and feel these feelings and these are feelings that you can’t replace in normal life as you are not winning tennis matches. We are so privileged to do what we are doing,” Sania stressed.