Melbourne: Trailblazing India tennis star Sania Mirza on Wednesday announced that she will hang up her racquet at the end of 2022 season as her body is "wearing down" and the motivation and energy for everyday grind is not the same anymore.
Winner of six Grand Slam titles, including three mixed doubles trophies, Sania will retire as India's most accomplished woman tennis player.
The 35-year-old made the retirement announcement after losing the Australian Open women's doubles first round with partner Nadiia Kichenok. They lost to Slovenia's Tamara Zidansek and Kaja Juvan.
"There's a bunch of reasons for it. I do feel my recovery is taking longer and considering my son is three years old, I do feel I am putting him at risk by travelling so much with him. Unfortunately the pandemic is making us take certain decision for the well-being of ourself and family," Mirza said at the post-match press conference.
"Also, my body is wearing down. My knee was really hurting today and I'm not saying that's the reason we lost but I do think that it is taking time to recover as I'm getting older," she said.
Sania, who became world number one in doubles during her successful partnership with Swiss legend Martina Hingis, said there were a certain issues that influenced her decision.
"Also for me to find that motivation everyday to come out, the energy is not the same anymore. Right this minute, it's there but there are days where I don't feel like doing that.
"I've always said that I will play until I enjoy that grind, the process and not just winning but you have to enjoy the process and I am not sure I'm enjoying it anymore.
"I am enjoying it enough to play this season. I've worked very hard to come back, get fit, lose the weight and try to set a good example for mothers, new mothers to follow their dreams as much as they can. Beyond this season, I don't feel my body doing it. It's beat," said the world number 68.
She reached top-30 in singles with 27 being her career best rank. Sania quit singles after a wrist injury to focus on doubles and enjoyed exceptional results.
Sania said she feels that she was playing at a decent level but she always knew that 2022 will be her last season and Wednesday's defeat was no trigger for it.
"I am playing at a good level. First week in Adelaide (event), we (she and Kichenok) beat top-10, 20 players. I am playing at a decent level. I was pretty sure this is my last season, if I do finish it. I am sure I am not coming to Melbourne to play Australian Open again.
"I had great memories here, singles, doubles and mixed doubles. It's been a great journey. I am not looking forward to June or July, I am literally going week to week, with my body, with virus, there is so much uncertainty."
"Every time I play, I feel I have a chance to win, that's why I am here."
"It is not because of disappointment of today's match. Just the way my body is. I am not sure if I can finish the season. I want to play full season, I am still (ranked) 50-60 in world, I do feel I have the level to play.
"As an athlete I feel I can go deep in tournament. But I have a bit of a meniscus issue going on my right knee, I woke up with wrist pain couple of days ago. There is nothing wrong with it.
"At 35, I am waking up with couple of things that I don't know where they're coming from. I want to finish the season, try to play until US Open, that is my goal. But I still have to take it week-to-week," she said.
Talking about her first round match, Sania said the conditions were tough but they could have handled the match better tactically.
"Definitely conditions were tough, very gutsy, sometimes it's not about tennis. We should have won the second set.
"When the wind is blowing one side and the stadium is on the other side, the ball bounced on leave and changed directions when I was hitting the ball. It was tough conditions but when you come to Australia, you can have days like this.
"On days like that, you should take a little bit more charge at net. That's where we made a mistake."