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Sania Mirza talks about breaking stereotypes on 'We The Women'

Sania Mirza talks about breaking stereotypes on We The Women

Sarah Waris

Published: 1 Dec 2019 8:57 AM GMT

Indian ace Sania Mirza, who took a long sabbatical from the game to have a child, has announced her return to competitive tennis, and will turn out in the Hobart International 2020 in January. The 33-year old, who aims to play the Olympics in Tokyo next year, has never shied away from taking on naysayers and spoke about the challenges that she has faced and continues to face in a one-on-one session with Barkha Dutt at 'We the Woman' conclave.

"I have played for almost 25 years now, and there have been many challenges right from childhood. It started right from when I was 6, and my parents were advised not to allow me to play an outdoor game. Once, in the professional scene, I realized the discrimination even more."

Mirza went on to elaborate the selection fiasco during the London Olympics in 2012, where she had accused the All India Tennis Association (AITA) of using her as a bait. Then, Mahesh Bhupathi had refused to pair up with Leander Paes over personal differences and chose to partner Rohan Bopanna instead. Paes was forced to enter the Games with Vishnu Vardhan, but he was offered a chance to play with Mirza in the mixed doubles event. It was seen as a huge compromise for Mirza, who was ranked number seven in the world then, and had a right to choose who she partnered.

“What I found disillusioning was the humiliating manner in which I was put up as a bait to try and pacify one of the disgruntled stalwarts of Indian tennis," Mirza said. The whole episode reeked of "male chauvinism", according to her. "This kind of blatant humiliation of Indian womanhood needs to be condemned even if it comes from the highest controlling body of tennis in our country."

Mirza was further in the news when she married Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik, with her nationalism being questioned. Her decision to not have a child till 2018 was a topic of much debate as well, with a senior Indian male journalist being at the receiving end for asking Mirza on live television what her plans of "settling down" were.

"Balancing has been very hard because women sports stars are always fighting a norm and a culture. They are always questioned. But, that is a battle that you have to fight on the way to the top," the former doubles world number one and six-time Grand Slam winner told Dutt.

She also touched about the unequal pay for women tennis stars in the field, and hoped that things took a turn for the better.

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