For most of her career, Indian tennis ace Sania Mirza was an active singles and doubles player, and was once ranked as high as 27th in the former by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).
However, she shifted her focus to playing only doubles in mid-2013 as the Indian tennis player felt it was taking a toll on her body and she wanted to focus on one discipline and try to fulfil her innate desire to be the world’s best.
Sania Mirza did achieve that, being ranked the best women’s doubles player in 2015, but old habits die-hard and India’s first Fed Cup Heart award winner revealed that she still trains with the same intensity as a singles player.
“I spent 10 years playing both and when I took the decision to switch to only doubles, I suddenly could not cut down on my training,” she explained in an Instagram Live with Indian football men’s team captain Sunil Chhetri.
“Obviously, doubles is physically less demanding because you cover half the court but I could not reduce my sessions because of that. Also, I have to feel satisfied when I finish training, I want to feel like I have given my absolute best and go to bed really tired.
“If I wasn’t able to pull it off, I would have stopped but my body allowed me to do it.”
The secret behind Sania Mirza’s forehand
The forehand is arguably Sania Mirza’s most potent weapon in her arsenal, with the pace and power of her groundstrokes allowing the Indian tennis ace to often dominate proceedings from the baseline.
The 33-year-old’s skills were in full flow even after her return to the tour after more than two years due to a maternity break and she broke down the mechanics behind her famous shot.
“In my earlier days, I used the western grip (where the wrist is mostly in control of the racquet) but I pulled it slightly backwards so that I don’t risk breaking my wrist,” she revealed. “I’d say my forehand is still 60-70 per cent natural.”
The change was also made possible by the fact that Sania Mirza has hypermobile joints, which give her more flexibility on the forehand. Though coaches discouraged her use of an ‘unconventional’ technique, she refused to revert.
“It allows me to change the direction of the forehand at the very last moment. That always meant my opponents couldn’t read it,” she had told The Indian Express. “Usually, your left shoulder can point out the direction of the forehand, but I can be in any position and still be able to change it.”