I have to think about my child and not just be an athlete

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2019 for the famous Indian tennis player Saniya Mirza meant getting back in shape and on the court. 

After giving birth to her son Izhaan in 2018, she was gearing up to take the world of tennis by storm again in 2020. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 has put all of her plans into the background.

However, the six-time Grand Slam winner was busy; Thus joining the cast of MTV Nishedh Alone Together, Mirza made her television debut last week. 

This digital miniseries revolves around the fight against tuberculosis with a focus on the current epidemic.

“When I was asked to participate in this project, I honestly didn’t know much about TB,”

Sania admits, responding by email from Dubai, UAE, where she is currently studying.

“I just knew a few people who went through it and were cured as they got the right help at the right time,”

Sania adds.

Based on this, an extensive study of tuberculosis began. The statistics are rather disturbing at the moment. There are about 2.7 million cases reported annually in India, and five lakhs are not even reported due to a lack of awareness of the main symptoms other than myths and prejudices. Moreover, about half of the diagnosed cases are less than 30 years old. This means that there is a need to change people’s perception of this disease.

What’s more, given that COVID-19 is also severely affecting our lungs, Mirza notes that coronavirus is further affecting India’s efforts to fight tuberculosis.

“The adverse effects of the virus and subsequent movement restrictions have also affected people who are unable to seek the help they need. The symptoms of tuberculosis and COVID-19 are similar. Therefore, if someone has an induced cough and tests negative for COVID-19, I urge them not to stay in the shadows and get tested for tuberculosis,”

says Mirza.

In the series, the tennis player will talk about the importance of maintaining a warm relationship, in our turbulent times when it is physically necessary to be apart from loved ones. Sania spent most of 2020 away from her husband, Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik, as she and her son stayed at home in Hyderabad.

Mirza says it was challenging to stay away from her husband for so long. When the first nationwide isolation was first introduced, she had a lot of uncertainty about how she and her husband would manage things. The tennis player also said that she thinks everyone had to go through it. The best solution for Mirza was to be at home and to ensure the safety of all the people she loved, especially her son. The family reunited in Dubai for a couple of months, in time for her and her son’s birthdays.

More recently, Mirza wrote a letter in support of Serena Williams and other high-level mothers in their sports. She described in it how she dropped 26 kilograms in order to return to tennis because this is what she really knows, loves and does.

Even though Sania Mirza is not yet entirely sure when she will play in the next tournament, her training is back to normal.

“I do fitness. But yes, I haven’t been on the court as often as I would like, and certainly, the regime is not the same as when you train to get on the court.”

Even when the very best tennis players like Novak Djokovic contracted COVID-19 (in June), Mirza had already made the decision not to play for the safety of her family.

“Right now, I need to think like a parent, not just like an athlete,”

she says.

As with any mother, her two-year-old child is now the centre of her universe. Sania is grateful for a rare and high-quality pastime with her family, as she spent most of her days recording meetings and training sessions with her son in tow. She also created a personal Instagram account for him, which, by the way, already has more than 52,000 followers.

“Since March, my child and I have been together every day, and watching him grow was the most beautiful thing,”

Sania says, adding that there is beauty in unity, especially during these difficult times.