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Imran Mirza guided daughter Sania to the pinnacle of success; his coaching talents remained unspoken

Hailing from a family of cricket players, Imran Mirza was not an outstanding tennis player. He had played the game at club level when he was young. But his innate sense and understanding of the sport helped him to guide the destiny of his daughter Sania Mirza and make her the most successful woman player that India has ever had.

Imran’s asset was that he could perfectly grasp the nuances of angles and placements that were required for Sania and her doubles partners to get the upper hand against their rivals. In every match he could pinpoint the flaws to his daughter and her partner in the doubles competitions. It was not surprising that even the players who partnered Sania in doubles matches, began to depend upon Imran for advice.

Martina Hingis

“Martina Hingis had even more trust in me than Sania did after we managed to turn around from a losing position in a match. It happened in the second tournament that the duo played together. Martina started trusting me completely thereafter,” Imran told The partnership between Sania and Martina became famous under the pseudonym of Santina and they broke the world record for the highest winning streak in the women’s doubles with an impressive string of victories.

MS Education Academy

Sania’s other doubles partners including Cara Black of Zimbabwe (who belonged to a famous family of tennis players) and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic also profited from the coaching that Imran provided.

But what made Imran so successful as a coach?

“Well coaching players at this level is a matter of psychology,” explained Imran. “Each of the doubles partners that Sania had were different in their mental make-up. Sania liked everything to be simplified. All instructions to her should be direct and simple. She just wanted me to tell her – go for that angle. Do this and do not do that.”

“But Martina Hingis was different. Hingis was the youngest-ever Grand Slam champion and youngest-ever world number one. I wasn’t a coach who had that level of qualification to guide such a player. So I had to first gain her confidence and trust. She liked everything to be explained in detail. Untill she was satisfied with my advice she would keep her questions coming at me. But I enjoyed talking to her. After I had convinced her she would go all out and implement the idea perfectly on the court,” said Imran.

Cara Black

“Even Cara Black of Zimbabwe was a very accomplished player. She was primarily a doubles specialist and won 60 WTA and 11 ITF doubles titles. In the case of Cara Black I had to gain her total faith and after that it was smooth going. Sania and Cara struck up a great partnership and all I had to do was keep things moving,” said Imran.

“Now where Sania’s partner Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic was concerned, I thought the going may be difficult. Barbora was a very energetic and passionate young woman. She would scream at herself if she made a mistake, and get very worked up. Her psychology is like that. She is a hard working and dedicated player but at first she seemed un-coachable. However after a few weeks I realised that she was in fact very approachable and very responsive. She understood exactly what I was trying to convey and put my words into practice without any fuss. It was a pleasure to work with her.”

Leizel Huber

“I also guided Leizel Huber for some time. She has won four Grand Slam titles in women’s doubles with Cara Black as her partner, one with Lisa Raymond and two mixed doubles titles with Bob Bryan. I enjoyed my interactions with her,” said Imran, the man who never thought that he would be a top level coach in tennis one day.

In William Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night, the character of Malvolio reads a letter which advises him, “Be not afraid of greatness, some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Imran belongs to the second category. He achieved great things as a coach and a father after his daughter began playing tennis. If Sania had not been a tennis player, Imran’s talent as a coach would never have been exposed. Father and daughter were a perfect harness for each other’s talents.

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