I need to think as a parent and not just an athlete: Sania Mirza

Though her plans of coming back to the court have been put further on hold, Sania Mirza is making her foray into television with a mini-series for MTV

For Sania Mirza, 2019 was all about getting back in shape to make her comeback on the court. Following the birth of her son Izhaan in 2018, she was ready to take the tennis world by storm again in 2020. And if her hard-fought victory in January this year — at the WTA Hobart International doubles with Ukrainian player Nadiia Kichenok — was any indication, she would have succeeded, too. But COVID-19 outbreak put all her plans on the backburner.

However, the six-time Grand Slam winner has kept busy; this past week she débuted on television, joining the cast of MTV Nishedh Alone Together as a radio host. The digital mini-series revolves around the awareness and management of Tuberculosis (TB) with a focus on the pandemic. “When I was approached for this project, I honestly did not know much about TB,” admits Sania, responding via e-mail from Dubai, UAE, where she is currently training. “I just knew a few people who have been through it and got cured because they got the right help at the right time,” she adds.

I need to think as a parent and not just an athlete: Sania Mirza

What followed was a great deal of research into TB. “The stats were alarming. There are about 2.7 million cases in India annually, and at least five lakh are not even reported due to the lack of awareness about symptoms, besides myths and societal stigmas. About half of the diagnosed cases are under the age of 30, which means that there is an urgent need to drive perception change”

Given that COVID-19 also attacks the lungs, she points out that the pandemic further affects India’s TB control efforts. “The adversity of the virus and the subsequent restriction on movement has also affected people who are not able to seek the required help. The symptoms of TB and COVID-19 are similar. So, if someone has an induced cough and has tested negative for COVID-19, I urge them to not be ignorant and get tested for TB,” she says.

The series will see her talking about the importance of maintaining relationships even when being physically apart from loved ones. Much of this year for Sania was spent away from her husband, Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik, as she and son stayed back at her home, in Hyderabad.

“Yes, it was difficult to stay away from my husband for a long period of time. Initially, when the nationwide lockdown was imposed, there was a lot of uncertainty about how we will manage things but I guess that happened to everybody. The best way was to be at home and ensure everyone’s safety, especially my toddler’s,” she says. The family reunited in Dubai in September, in time for both her and her son’s birthdays.

I need to think as a parent and not just an athlete: Sania Mirza

Recently, she penned an open letter in support of Serena Williams and other mothers playing at the highest level of their respective sports. She describes how she lost 26 kilograms to come back to tennis “because that’s what I know, love and do.”

Back on track

Though Sania is unsure when her next tournament will be, her training is back on track. “I am high on fitness. But yes, I haven’t hit the court as much as I would have loved to, and undeniably, the regimen is not the same as when you train to hit the court.” Even as top tennis players including Novak Djokovic contracted COVID-19 (in June), Sania had already made the decision not to play in the interest of her family. “Right now, I need to think as a parent and not just an athlete,” she says.

Her two-year-old is now the centre of her universe. Thankful for the rare, quality time with her family, Sania has been spending most of her days recording playdates and workouts with her son in tow. She also created an Instagram account for him, which, incidentally, already has over 52,000 followers.

“Since March, my child and I have spent every single day together and to watch him grow has been the most beautiful thing,” she says, adding that there is beauty in togetherness, especially in these trying times.

MTV Nishedh Alone Together streams every Friday on the Facebook, YouTube and Instagram handles of MTV and MTV Nishedh.

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