After a career-pausing break and motherhood, will Sania Mirza bounce back to the tennis court for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics? It's a long way off, feels the former doubles World No.1 who says resuming her game is a priority as soon as the pregnancy is done. The Indian ace wants to set an example that people shouldn't give up dreams just because they're pregnant.
Sania and her cricketer husband Shoaib Malik, who got married in 2010, announced her pregnancy last month.
"It was just about time... I was down with my knee injury anyway and we had been thinking about it for a while... We thought it was a good time to start a family and experience this new phase of our lives," Sania told IANS.
The tennis ace is suffering from a condition called jumper's knee, which has kept her off the game for over six months. She even missed the Australian Open earlier this year.
Is the knee any better?
"It definitely is. I haven't played since mid-October, so it has been a solid six months and more. Rest was something everyone was recommending... So, I won't say it's perfect, but it's better," said the sportswoman, who finds it difficult to rest.
Will she compete at the 2020 Olympics?
"The 2020 Olympics is a long way off. I've said this many times that as tennis players, we wish we knew what our lives brought us tomorrow. Having said that though, it definitely looks very doable right now. But one has to wait and watch where life really takes you. Most definitely, I would say coming back to playing is a priority as soon as the pregnancy is done," said the 31-year-old, who is due to deliver her first child in October.
She is not letting weight woes worry her.
"Weight is so superficial. For a woman, it's all about embracing the pregnancy. When you're pregnant, what's most important is having a healthy baby. I really want women to understand that whether you're a celebrity or not, it doesn't matter. You are going to get bigger when you're pregnant and you will lose the weight as long as you want to."
Sania, whose baby's surname would be Mirza-Malik -- an amalgam of the last names of both the parents -- is confident she won't let motherhood hold her back in her career.
"Pregnancy is not something that holds you back in any way. It's very empowering and is something that is part of being a woman and it's something I always looked forward to... having a family... (I knew) tennis is something that will take a backseat eventually.
"My goal is obviously to come back and that's the most important thing. Of course, my kid is very important in my life right now, but after that, I would like to come back to playing because it's an example I'd like to set for my kid as well that you don't give up on your dreams just because you're pregnant," said the youth icon, adding: "I am young enough to come back and still play and be the best that I can be."
Does she see anyone capable of taking over her mantle in the domestic circuit?
Sania laughed and said: "I mean, I don't know... I am pregnant, so hopefully someone can. I think there are a couple of young girls who are quite good. There's Ankita Raina, Karman Kaur Thandi and Prarthana Thombare... These are the girls who are the next generation. They are 23, 24 years old, and these are the girls I've seen since they were 16 or 17.
"They are going to be in the race, whether it's today, tomorrow or when I am done and retired. So hopefully, one of them will come out. It's about making that next big step... A few more things if they fall into place, we will have one of them come out."
Overall, the star athlete is quite buoyed by the success of women in the global sports arena of late.
"It's pretty incredible as we come from a culture where sports is not the first profession that people think of putting their child in... Things are obviously changing... There's still a long way to go, but it has changed a lot, at least since I started playing tennis.
"Today, a parent is putting the confidence in their child, a girl or a boy -- a girl more I think -- that they can be a professional athlete, and it doesn't have to be their second job," she said, adding that Indian athletes' performance at the Commonwealth Games this year is proof that "we're moving in the right direction".