Mirza welcomes Asian boom
TENNIS: Asian poster girl Sania Mirza says the women’s game is in its best state ever in the region, with Chinese stars like Li Na leading the charge and a new generation waiting in the wings.
Thursday 31 May 2012, 03:37PM
“I think we’re probably at the healthiest best in Asian women’s tennis,” Mirza told AFP in an interview on the sidelines of the French Open.
“Tennis is growing in Asia,” she said.
Asia’s former number one was speaking after a three-set loss with her American doubles partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands to the Russian-Romanian pair of Nina Bratchikova and Edina Gallovits-Hall in the first round at Roland Garros. The shock defeat came after Mirza and Mattek-Sands won the doubles trophy at last week’s Brussels Open.
Sania, who was at a career-best world number 10 in the doubles ranking before Tuesday but has slipped to number 185 in singles from a peak of 27 in 2007, is now unsure of being able to play in the London Olympics.
She’s only 25 but injuries have hobbled her career, which reached a climax when she won the mixed doubles with compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi at the Australian Open in 2009.
With more than $2.2 million (B70 million) in career prize money and a celebrated wedding in 2010 to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik, Mirza has to decide soon on her tennis priorities in order to preserve her health.
“That’s a call I’ll take, either playing just singles or just doubles.”
Mirza said that after three surgeries – on her wrist and both knees – her body feels much older.
“It's not the tennis. I’ve never doubted about the tennis. It’s more about the body.”
While more young women across Asia are taking up tennis, inspired by Mirza and Chinese stars like Li, the men’s singles game hasn’t caught up.
Mirza agreed that the massive popularity of football and cricket in Asia could be factors, but also noted that Asian men have to contend with far more powerful players in Europe, Russia and the United States.