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March 3, 2021

Sania Mirza

Doha, Qatar

Press Conference


6-2, 6-0

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. I just want to know how you're feeling. You started the year with COVID. You couldn't travel to Australia. You had an injury also. Just how are you feeling fitness-wise and where is your game right now?

SANIA MIRZA: I feel okay. I mean, considering I haven't played in a year, I feel good.

I mean, I have a little bit of, like, some issue -- just a little bit of muscle issue but nothing, like, serious. But that's to be expected because I'm playing after so long, so my body is a little bit getting used to it.

But COVID-wise, yes, I feel good, like I took a couple of weeks. I didn't start training straightaway after I had COVID. My doctor advised me to take like at least 10 days to 14 days, and then I did all my tests and everything. Once I knew I was ready to go, yeah, so I have been able to train for a few weeks before coming here, which was really good.

Today I felt much better than I did in the first round tennis-wise. I think that I felt much closer to how I remember myself playing a while ago (smiling).

Yeah, so I felt good. It was a good win for us, considering we're playing for the first time. And to play someone as good as Dabrowski, especially playing in doubles she's been playing really well lately. Blinkova, she's young and upcoming. So it was a good win for us.

Q. I was just wondering, Serena spoke a lot about not being able to work on her fitness because of injuries in the comeback. You also struggled last year. You were down after your first tournament with a calf injury. Have you had time, in the lockdown following that, have you been able to work on fitness? Has that been a big improvement in your game?

SANIA MIRZA: To be honest, I have had time. I mean, I can't say in the pandemic I didn't have time. But actually, I didn't train for the first few months of the pandemic. I mean, I think we were so sort of absorbed by like how to stay healthy and like COVID-wise to stay healthy especially.

I wasn't really doing like pro-athlete fitness, if that's what you want to call it. Like I was doing normal. I was keeping active and doing all this stuff, but I wasn't going out and putting in four hours a day like that kind of effort. Also, I didn't really at that point have that motivation, not knowing when I'm gonna play, so on and so forth.

But I also have a child, so it's not easy always to, you know, take out like six hours of your day, you know, all the time.

But the thing is no matter how much you work on your fitness, which I have, like I was doing about four-and-a-half hours before I came here for about three-and-a-half, four weeks, which is solid, it's nothing like playing a match.

When you play a match, your muscles are just really different. They react differently to situations. They react differently to a movement even, because they are just much tighter. I think match fitness is something that I'm just going to have to work on as I go on.

Sure, I mean, I'm doing my strengthening and everything, but if I do get hurt on the way, I don't think that's because I didn't work enough. I just think it's because of lack of match fitness, if that makes sense.

Q. You obviously worked extremely hard when you came back last year. I wonder, does this feel like another comeback? Has working this time been as hard or harder than last year?

SANIA MIRZA: Yeah. I mean, last year definitely I think I worked really, really hard, because I was getting my body back from, like, zero. I mean, literally I had to lose weight and get strong and then try to be in a position to be able to compete again.

Then obviously the pandemic happened. But I'm not obviously going to make it personal and say, Oh, it affected me the most. I think it affected the whole world. It's not something I want to complain about.

Of course it was not an ideal situation. Personally, like for me, because I had worked for a year and a half to get back to that position and I was finally playing well and I felt like I was getting back to playing probably close to my best, obviously the pandemic happened.

This time around I think physically maybe it was easier to put in that effort because obviously I didn't have that much of a journey to sort of cover, but I think emotionally and mentally it was a bit harder to be very honest, because I think we all went through a lot in the last one year and I think everybody reacted to this kind of situation differently.

You know, I also got COVID just pretty recently, like a month and a half ago, so I was pretty, like, I wasn't even sure if I was going to play here. I just thought, okay, let's see, I will try and train, and if I feel tired or something I won't play.

So I think mentally maybe it was a bit tougher this time around, but last time it was probably physically a bit more tough.

Q. Can I ask what your motivation is to be playing? You have been World No. 1. You have won Grand Slams. You know, why play now?

SANIA MIRZA: Honestly, I think, and I said this last year, as well, there is a couple of things, first of all. I think that I still have a good few, I don't know if a few, but a good couple of years of tennis left in me at the highest level. I feel that I still have it in me to win tournaments and try and compete for the big tournaments or the Grand Slams even.

You know, it's obviously too early to talk about that. It's my first tournament back, but obviously I'm able to still compete at this level and win matches. I think for me that's one thing.

The other thing is that, which is something that's very close to my heart, I feel that there are a lot of young girls and women who look up to me or look up to us, and I feel that when there is people like Serena, I mean, there are so many mothers now playing on the tour, and I just feel like, especially on our side of the world, women sort of think that once they have a baby, life's kind of over. But it's not. You don't have to crush your dreams because you have a child. You can still go after them. You can still, you know, find ways to do it as long as you have a good support system around you.

I think that my son's a really good motivation for me. I hope that one day he'll be proud to see what I'm trying to do after having him.

Yeah, and the Olympics is something that's in the back of my head, as well. So there are a few reasons, to be honest (smiling).

Q. I wanted to find out, how did you happen to form your partnership with Andreja? Do you plan to play with her throughout the season or just this one tournament?

SANIA MIRZA: Actually, we were supposed to play in Abu Dhabi earlier in the year when there was that tournament, so we had decided to play there. But I got COVID. Yeah, so I had to pull out. At that point I was sick, and so she had to find someone.

So she actually just kind of asked me right after that and she said, Are you planning to play? I said, Yeah, sure, I am going to try to play Doha and Dubai. So we are set for these two weeks.

You know, with a baby and with me just coming back, I have to kind of sort of watch my schedule, so I'm not, like, ready to play week after week, because I need to watch my body a little bit, as well, just to kind of ease into things.

We have decided to play these two weeks. Obviously, I mean, we are playing well, so why not in the future? We will think about it.

Q. Then beyond this week and Dubai then, have you mapped out any sort of a schedule for the next few months or is it too early to tell?

SANIA MIRZA: It is a bit early to tell. I am thinking of going to the States to try and play. Probably Miami and Charleston. But I do know I have Fed Cup after that. We play Fed Cup in Latvia in the middle of the April.

So that's a solid sort of three weeks already of my next couple of months. So after that I think I'm going to maybe take a few weeks off on the clay.

Yeah, it really depends on also my ranking, also depends on how many times I need to use my special ranking. If we win this week, then who knows what my ranking is going to be. So there is a few sort of things that I have to kind of go day by day with.

Q. And you kind of touched upon it I think earlier, but how has starting a family changed your outlook on being a tennis professional?

SANIA MIRZA: I think being a mother has made me a better person. I think that as professional athletes maybe we are slightly self-centered. It's all about ourselves, about our warmups, about our matches, about our food, and, like, it's all about where we want to do what we want to do. That's something that's been throughout all our lives basically.

Then you have a child, and, boom, everything changes. Nothing is really about you anymore. That's the most natural progression sort of that happens. It's not that you have to try to be selfless or anything. It just sort of you become that. I guess that's what maternal feelings are.

For me, I think it's made me a better person. I think that I never knew I had it in my me to love someone so much that, you know, I want more for that little baby than I want for anybody else in the world, including myself.

So I think that a tennis match, at the end of the day, remains a tennis match. But being a mother, to me, is something that cannot be replaced. That feeling is never going to be replaced no matter how much I won or how much I will win in the future.

Q. I'm just wondering, you mentioned the Olympics there. Is that a burning ambition for you to still compete in the Olympics? What's the process of that, given the uncertainty around Tokyo?

SANIA MIRZA: I mean, it was definitely one of the reasons that I said that I would like to put myself in that position, to be able to compete at my fourth Olympics if I do make it.

We came really, really close to winning that medal last time. You know, we lost the bronze medal match, but I feel like when I sort of close this chapter of my life, which is tennis, I feel like if I look back, probably then an Olympic medal is something that I would have loved to win if I was supposed to close my chapter today.

So I want to give myself another shot at it, sure. Whether I can be or will I be able to, time will tell. But, yes, that is something that is important to me. It's something that I have thought about, and it was one of the motivations for me to come back.

Q. It's been well documented that you have achieved an awful lot of success. Do you almost feel like you're starting turning over a new leaf, a new book and a chapter, trying to prove yourself all over again and even match some of the feats you have matched so far in your career?

SANIA MIRZA: I feel like the biggest competition to myself is myself. I feel like I'm competing with myself, whether I -- how I play, I mean, even today when I was playing, I feel like I always kind of go back and I say, Oh, this is how I used to play when I was playing my best and this is how (garbled audio) past versus the present, so to say.

I don't think it's anything to prove to anybody or to anything or to myself even. It's almost -- I love playing tennis. I love competing. I missed it. I miss the feeling of competition. I miss that feeling of coming out and feeling that win and feeling that victory.

I miss the hard work, as well. So I think it's really not anything to prove to anybody. It's more of something what I really want to do.

Q. You mentioned some of your plans for later on in the year and some events you plan to participate. I know there was one not mentioned there, but is it on the radar, Wimbledon? Is Wimbledon still very much a goal for you?

SANIA MIRZA: Yeah, most definitely. It's one of my most special Grand Slams. I have won juniors there. We have been able to win the women's doubles in a very historic match. It holds a very special place.

I think most tennis players definitely have it in mind. That's something I like playing on the grass, so that's definitely something that's on my mind.

Q. I just wanted to ask, how do you combine motherhood with playing? Will you be traveling with your son to tournaments?

SANIA MIRZA: Yeah. I mean, he's not here this week. I actually -- it was my first week back, so I kind of just wanted to understand how the whole bubble works.

I have been in a couple of cricket bubbles with my husband and my son, but this was my first tennis bubble. I just wanted to see how it's working and so I just wanted to be familiar with everything.

So he's actually flying with my sister tomorrow morning to Dubai, so he's going to be in Dubai obviously. And if I go to the States, yes, the plan is to take him along.

I think he's at a stage of his life, he's two and he really does need me. I think he'll actually be fine. It's me that's the problem (smiling).

So I think, yeah, so the majority of the time I'm going to try to travel with him, yes. I luckily have a good support team around me, but there will be some weeks like this week where I will just need a week off or something.

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