Former world No. 1 doubles tennis ace Sania Mirza is now all set to travel to England for this year’s grass-court season after her two-year-old son Izhaan received a visa from the United Kingdom government. The six-time Grand Slam champion has been eager to return to the tour, starting with the WTA 250 Nottingham Open on June 6.
However, the United Kingdom government has imposed restrictions on passengers travelling from India due to the devastating second wave of COVID-19 in the country. As a result, no visas were issued to Mirza’s son and his caretaker. The ace tennis player has sought support from the Indian Ministry of Sports, which has approached the UK government through the Indian Ministry of External Affairs to grant the visas that have now been obtained.
“Having a toddler, being a mother and doing your job is very difficult in many, many ways, and especially my job because I have to travel and I have to train,” Sania said in a statement to the Sports Authority of India (SAI).
“So, it’s really nice to be able to be at peace of mind. But, obviously, with the scenario and the situation that’s going on with Covid, everything has become even more challenging for all of us. It (would have been) tough for me to leave my toddler for four-five weeks and from there go to the Tokyo Olympics as well, so it would have been two months. As a mother, and as a child, for him, it would become very, very difficult,” Sania added.
I would like to thank the Union Sports Minister, @KirenRijiju sir Indian Embassies in (UAE and UK),@Media_SAI and the British Govt for helping my son Izhaan and my sister Anam get the visa to enable them to travel with me to UK for the tournaments.Very grateful @PMOIndia— Sania Mirza (@MirzaSania) June 3, 2021
The 34-year-old has not toured since the WTA 1000 Dubai Open in March. However, Sania will miss the Nottingham event due to the 10-day quarantine she has to undergo upon arrival in England. But she will play in the tuning tournaments in Birmingham (starting June 14) and Eastbourne (June 21) and then play at Wimbledon from June 28.
After that, she is expected to travel to Tokyo for the Olympic Games.
Sania, a TOPS (Target Olympic Podium Scheme) athlete, has not played sports on maternity leave for over two years. However, she won her first tournament on her return, the Hobart Open, in January 2020.
During the break, her ranking did drop - she is now in 161st place, but her protected ranking of No. 9 will allow her to gain a direct entry in the doubles event at the Olympics. Now that her son can accompany her to England, Sania has found the “peace of mind” she hoped for.
“I have (been away from her son) in the past, but the maximum it’s been is 10 days. But more than that, it’s been more difficult for me. I feel like it may leave a long effect on the child as well, which I don’t want to risk,” she said.
“Giving your 100 per cent is something that we always do as athletes; we can separate on-court from off-court for the most of it. But at the end of the day, we are human beings, and as a mother, it is very difficult to stay away from your child. I’m so glad it has come through,” she added.
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