Raising a racket: Sania, Sindhu and their lockdown Hyderabad blues

Tennis

They are stars but move in different orbits; their success means they share a lot of traits but don’t often get to chat about them, especially for the benefit of sports fans. In the second of our Conversations series, we bring together Sania Mirza and PV Sindhu, two of India’s all-time sporting greats. They share stories of Hyderabad, food and their concerns for sport in the time of a pandemic.


SANIA: Our lives revolve around practice and competition. How has it been to kill time during this phase?

SINDHU: I’m absolutely loving it. I don’t remember the last time I spent so much time with my family together. It has been so hectic for the past few years that it feels that finally I had a good time to sit down, introspect and make the best out of this.

SANIA: How are you keeping motivated to still train and eat healthy?

SINDHU: I am making the most of this lockdown. I have been training at home but, of course, I miss being on court. I can’t wait to get back. You could say because of the lockdown, I’ve completely cut out all the junk from my diet and it’s only home food now. It’s probably after a long while I am getting to stay home for two months straight and eat all meals at home. Otherwise, when we are away for tournaments, we end up eating out quite a bit. This is actually a good window to sit back and take a nice break from an otherwise hectic schedule.

Have you been able to practice on court, since you have one at home and how have you planned out your return to full training?

SANIA: Yes, it’s a good window to sit back. I had just gotten into the groove after coming back from pregnancy and having Izhaan. I was playing well and now it has to be a restart all over again. So it’s not really ideal for me. I was in self-isolation for a fortnight after I got back from San Diego. I haven’t been practising on court because I didn’t want to risk it by calling someone over to hit with me. I have been doing a lot of fitness for a couple of hours every day. So, physically, I’m still in decent shape. Even during Ramzan, I was trying to fit it in. Maybe a little bit less, but I was still keeping it up.

SINDHU: Ramzan in Hyderabad is an amazing experience. I am missing all the haleem and biryani. What are the yummy dishes you’ve been making and any new skills at home you’ve tried your hand at during this period?

SANIA: It was a different Ramzan this time. It was relaxed, and since I was home I could fast. It’s after a long time that I’m in India during this time. We made haleem at home. No, it wasn’t me who made it! I’m so bad around the kitchen. I did try my hand at some baking though. Just that all of us were at home, so we were all chipping in with bits.

What about you? How many hours a day do you spend on Netflix and what would be your watch suggestions for me?

SINDHU: Honestly, I haven’t been binge watching too much. Of course I’d have to say that my favourite show for now is definitely Money Heist!

I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to pick up new skills like cooking, baking and stitching. My mom is using this opportunity to teach me the basics in all of them and I’m having fun exploring things I hadn’t before.

SANIA: What do you miss the most about competition?

SINDHU: More than competition, I miss being on court. No matter how much we work out at home, it doesn’t make up for actually playing the game. I miss that. Hoping we can be back for training soon.

SANIA: Do you think life will change once it is back to ‘normal’? What has this pandemic taught you?

SINDHU: Oh yes, life is going to change a little bit for sure. We will not be taking things for granted. There will be a lot [of] precautions in daily life. We will have to wait and see but it’s going to change for sure in the global sporting environment.

Where do you foresee the biggest change?

SANIA: I think international sport is going to take a pretty big hit with this. Crowds are a major component of live sport. The bigger the crowds, the energy that it creates for players is very different. I think that’s not going to happen for a long time. In tennis, I don’t know how it’s going to work for us with ball kids anymore. With social-distancing norms in place it’s tough because you’re touching the same tennis ball and they’re throwing it to you. I think there are going to be a lot of changes in sport. It’s going to be interesting to watch and I do hope sport returns globally very soon.

SINDHU: Given the scale of the pandemic, the world is sitting back and focusing on little things that matter.

Have you had any such thoughts — starting something new or doing something different?

SANIA: I think the pandemic has given all of us a new way of looking at life. It has made us realise that the things we’ve always been chasing aren’t probably the most important ones. What matters most is your heath and your family and being grateful for having them. I haven’t really started anything new but this whole phase has really taught me to appreciate the smaller things in life.

SINDHU: Speaking of the smaller things in life… how have you been spending time with Izhaan during these months away from sport?

SANIA: You saw Izhaan when he was very little. Now, he’s a full badmaash (mischievous kid). He’s almost 19 months, so he’s running all over the place, talking a little bit and he keeps everyone in the house busy and entertained at all times. It’s a lot of fun to be with him and watch him grow. This is the most cherished time of my life. The love I feel for him is something I never thought I had within me for someone. He’s full of life and energy and just a really happy kid.

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