Sania Mirza’s dream of playing alongside Roger Federer will be realised when the two team up for the mixed doubles in the third leg of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) beginning here on Saturday.
“Well what do I say. It will be a huge honour to share the court with Roger. Really looking forward to performing in front of the home fans,” said Sania, who is representing table leaders Indian Aces in the four-team competition.
Sania and Federer are scheduled to play mixed doubles on Sunday and Monday. Besides Roger and compatriot Rohan Bopanna, Pete Sampras will be Sania’s another famed teammate.
Asked who she would choose between Federer and Sampras for the mixed doubles, Sania said: “Well that is one hell of an option. I will take whoever you give me. I don’t choose in this scenario”.
Sania and Bopanna are the lone Indians competing in the IPTL. In such a scenario, do they feel the event will benefit Indian tennis besides being an exhibition involving global icons like Federer and Sampras?
“Most definitely it will benefit Indian tennis. This kind of a players’ line up has never been seen before in the country. It can do a lot to motivate the youngsters. There is a lot of difference when you watch it live and when you watch the game on on TV,” said Sania.
Bopanna added: “Speaking for myself on the subject, I think IPTL will do a lot of good. Being a doubles players, my matches are not shown on TV. All my friends tell me they only get to read about them in the newspapers. Now we are coming live and all these young kids can watch us play, seeing us they can be inspired to pick up the sport.
“It is a great format and we have got some great camaraderie going on. I think overall tennis is the winner here,” said Bopanna.
An expected question asked to the players was on their experience of playing in an all new time restricted format.
“It is fun. It can be part of the next season’s preparation. Off season can be tiring otherwise. We normally spend lot of time with our team. Events like these outside your country is a good way to prepare,” said world number five Ana Ivanovic, who was sitting alongside Sania.
Sania, on her part, was all praise for the tournament. “It has been amazing so far. Initially there were a few changes we needed to get used to. We all came thinking it is going to be a bit relaxed but like everyone is saying we are giving everything we have. It is a lot fun at the same time,” said the Hyderabadi.
“As tennis players we don’t get to play team events very often. With IPTL we have struck have great friendships as well. Ivanovic added: “I have not played team events before and when I heard about this concept, I wanted to be a part of it.
Like Sania said we hardly get to play team format. Earlier a lots of talks were going whether it (IPTL) will go ahead or not. I am happy it came through and we are enjoying a lot,” said Ivanovic, who is also part of the Indian Aces.
IPTL CEO Morgan Menahem was also present at the interaction. Asked about ATP chief Chris Kermode’s ‘glorified exhibition’ remark on the IPTL, Menahem came up with a stern reply.
“ATP has been criticising us for some time now. I will give you one example to explain my point. Tennis Australia are organising an exhibition match between Lleyton Hewitt and Roger Federer and they are following the new format.
Therefore, it is the right direction for tennis. ATP, WTA, ITF should consider this IPTL format seriously. It is about brining more excitement and fans to the game,” said Menahem.