Hard graft proves rewarding for Sania Mirza
San Diego, California: Having been troubled by career-threatening wrist problems for four years, Indian number one Sania Mirza has no interest in wasting another second.
The 24-year-old has rarely missed a tournament this year as she claws her way back up the rankings after finally overcoming the right wrist problem that first surfaced in 2007.
"I started the year ranked 166 and if someone told me I would be top 75 in singles and top 11 (in doubles) right after Wimbledon, I would have taken it with both hands," Mirza said.
"It`s not easy and I was coming back from an injury where no one felt I was every going to play tennis again, including me."
Mirza reached a career-high of 27 in the singles rankings in August 2007 but then injury struck and the Mumbai-born player struggled, drifting out of the top 150.
Last year, she missed much of the first half of the season but regained some form at the end to win a silver in singles and a bronze at doubles at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
Since then, the hard-hitting right-hander has been a workhorse, rarely taking even a week off.
"Everyone expects you to come back to where you were, but it takes a lot to do it," said Mirza.
"From Birmingham of last year until my last match at Wimbledon this year, I played 161 matches (singles, doubles and mixed doubles). I don`t know if anyone has ever done that."
Mirza, who is currently ranked number 64 in singles and a career-high 11 in doubles, has set her sights on qualifying for the year-end WTA championships in Istanbul with her partner, Elena Vesnina of Russia.
The pair started playing together early this season and won titles at Indian Wells and Charleston and finished runners-up at the French Open to leave them second in the race to reach Turkey.
Because she wants to be one of the four teams to qualify for the WTA Championships, Mirza is playing an exhausting schedule in America, not taking a week off through to the U.S. Open which starts later this month.
"Now that we have (a) chance to qualify, we can`t just rest," she said. "We have an opportunity and we want to get there."
Desire to Play
Mirza resides in Dubai with her husband, Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik, where she said it`s easier to live a normal life as they aren`t recognized as much.
She laughed off a recent news report that her husband is now beating her in mini tennis and has designs on overcoming her in a full court game.
"He`s always teasing me about this one time (when) we played three points and he won two," she said.
"How stupid is it to think you could beat a pro tennis player in mini tennis and want to beat her at regular tennis, my husband said. Why would someone write something like that, it`s ridiculous."
Despite the arduous schedule, Mirza said she enjoys her time on court and rejected criticism that her desire had dampened since the injury.
"Tennis has been a part of my life and has given me everything, but it`s not my whole life," she said.
"It`s not like if I don`t play tennis I`ll die.”
"Last year I could have said I`m hurt, I`ve done what I had to, I`m married to a cricketer, I`m young, I could do something else, and I don`t want to work hard again and come back. It`s not about the money or the fame for me, it`s about my desire to play."