Tennis star Sania Mirza bid an emotional farewell to an illustrious career spanning over two decades amid thunderous applause at the Lal Bahadur Stadium, the venue where she was determined to play for one last time after quitting the sport last week.
The six-time Grand Slam champion struggled to control her emotions given the journey she has undertaken over the years against all odds.
The Mirzas were in full attendance — parents Imran and Nasima, sister Anam and her husband Abbas, whose father and former India cricket captain Mohd. Azharuddin was also there, along with Sania’s four-year-old son, Izhaan.
After the exhibition matches featuring her best friends and doubles partners Rohan Bopanna, Ivan Dodig, Cara Black, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Marion Bartoli, the tennis champion addressed the crowd which cheered her on. “I am thankful to each and everyone for the kind of send-off given to me today. I couldn’t have asked for a better farewell,” the 36-year-old said.
While talking about her love for the sport, she took a long pause and wiped off her tears even as the crowds chanted ‘Sania, Sania’. “Yes, I am going to miss playing tennis. But, I can tell you I will be there with the Telangana government and the Sports Authority of Telangana State, whom I also thank for facilitating this grand show, to produce another Sania,” she said. “In fact, we need more Sanias and will work towards that for sure,” she added, as the crowd stood up on its feet to applaud her.
Earlier, joining the tennis stars in the exhibition matches was former India cricketer Yuvraj Singh, a close friend of Sania’s, as he partnered with Bethanie to play against Sania and Dodig, to the delight of the goodly crowd.
Two female fans wept when they were passed on the mike to share their feelings about Sania hanging up her boots.
Telangana IT Minister K.T. Rama Rao and Sports Minister V. Srinivas Goud lauded Sania for her “inspirational career”, and presented mementos to Sania, her family members and the participating tennis stars.
Surprisingly, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, who held the sports portfolio earlier and was present at the venue from the beginning of the grand event, did not come down for the presentation of mementos and watched the proceedings from the VIP enclosure.
City Police Commissioner C.V. Anand, himself a good tennis player, was also present on the occasion.