Greater Noida: At a time when the focus of the Union Government is producing more and more champions to compete on international platforms, the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports is organising the biggest sports extravaganza: the first “Khelo India” School Games in national capital to hunt young talent from the schools in various disciplines and groom them as future sports champions, Tennis star Sania Mirza said playing a sport helped in becoming a better human being.
Under the ‘Khelo India’ initiative, a high-powered committee identifies talented players in priority sports disciplines at various levels and provides them with an annual financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh per annum each for 8 years.
Mirza, who was at the Supertech Sports Village here to kick off a tennis academy emphasised that, for India to become a sporting nation, a sports culture is required, where more and more people are playing.
“Sports is not just about becoming a champion. It’s about learning a way of life. Sport is about accepting defeat and handling victories. Just because I have a tennis academy back home and there is an academy here, it does not guarantee we are going to have world champions. What you can guarantee is to be (sic) a better human being, sport teaches you that,” said Sania.
Mirza, a winner of six Grand Slam titles, said champions would come out automatically when a large number of people play. “Become a sporting nation does not mean how many champions you have; it means how many people are playing a sport. When you go to Australia or America, every kid there plays whatever it is, baseball or football. Because they have so many in numbers playing, they have so many champions. It has got a lot better (in India) in the last few years.”
The tennis sensation from Hyderabad, who is at rest because of an injury, said it would take her at least two more months to get battle-ready. “What frustrates me most during the rehab period is not the physical pain but the compulsory rest,” she said.
When asked what the most challenging part of the rehabilitation period was, the 31-year-old tennis star said, “The toughest thing is the mental part. Like it was difficult to watch Australian Open and not play. As an athlete when you are forced to do something, it’s difficult to accept. When you retire by choice, it’s different.”
Getting back her composure, she said, “But it’s not the first time that I am injured. I have had three surgeries before. As an athlete, I am used to that. It’s mental more than the physical pain.”
When asked whether she would go for a knee surgery, Sania said, “I don’t want to get into the technicalities of it, but even if there is a surgery, there is no guarantee that it is going to get better. It’s basically pain that I need to manage (it).” She added, “It got out of hand; so I had to take (some) time off. I could not take painkillers anymore. It is getting better. It’s frustrating because you have to rest and do rehab.”
Mirza is out of action since October 2017 due to an injury in her right knee, which has forced her to miss the first Grand Slam of the season.
Terming the present phase of her career as a blessing in disguise, she said, “Most of the time, since I turned professional, I spent in hotel rooms away from my home. This way, I got some time to live with my husband these days.”
Mirza is confident that missing out on tennis for about four months won’t impact her adversely. “I turned a professional in 2003. It’s a very demanding life away from family and loved ones in a hotel room. I had a pretty long career. Do I think that these four months are going to make a difference in my career? No, in (the) larger perspective, I have to take positives out of it,” she said.
On her performance in 2017 when she managed to win just a WTA title, compared to eight in 2016 and 10 in 2015, Sania said, “As an athlete, we are always greedy. When we win 10 (titles), we want to win the 11th and, whew, we win one, we want to win three. When hunger is not there, you know it’s time to retire. I still finished in (the) top 10; it was a decent year; 2017 was a solid year but it can get better,” Mirza said.
When asked if she saw herself playing the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, she said, “The first Asian Games I played was in 2002 when I was 15. It’s been really long, I would like to play another one if I can and win more medals. I have come back with medals every time I played. So, it would be pretty amazing, but I can’t look that far ahead… want to focus on my recovery.”
After her interaction with the media, Sania Mirza played with some children at the tennis academy at Supertech Sports Village.
The ‘village’, which is spread in 175 acres, will have tennis, cricket, shooting and badminton academies in 70% of the area while residential properties will be developed in the remaining 30%. It will take another five years to develop it fully.
Supertech CMD RK Arora and MD Mohit Arora were present during the event.