Sania Mirza opens up on losing 2016 Olympics bronze medal match, calls it worst moment in her career

Sania Mirza opens up on losing 2016 Olympics bronze medal match, calls it worst moment in her career

no photo

Tennis great Sania Mirza voiced sadness at not winning an Olympic medal and referred to the unfateful day when Rohan Bopanna and she lost the bronze medal match at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio as "one of the worst days" of her life, lamenting the fact that India is not a sporty nation.

In addition to earning gold medals at the 2006 Doha and 2010 Incheon Asian Games, Sania has won three women's doubles and three mixed doubles championships in Grand Slam tournaments. She is the first Indian woman player to have had top-30 rankings in women's singles and doubles during her professional career, which lasted from February 2003 to February 2023.

Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna were defeated by Lucie Hradecka and Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic in the bronze medal match at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

“I think that if I have something in my career that I feel that I am missing is probably that Olympic medal. We came so close to it in Rio in 2016 and I don’t usually cry after I lose matches, but that is something that sometimes when I think about it even today, it hurts me," said Sania in an interview with former Indian cricketer Veda Krishnamurthy for JioCinema's original series "Home of Heroes."

“Winning an Olympic medal for your country and for yourself and your family is the biggest dream that any athlete can have. And we came very, very close to it, we came painfully close to it. I mean, to come fourth in the Olympics is the worst. You would rather come 30th, don’t come 4th. Three gets the medal and then the fourth has nothing. So, it was very painful, it was one of the worst days of mine and Rohan’s life for so many reasons. But yes, we had to finish the match,” Sania said as per a release.

Sania Mirza discussed returning to her tennis career after becoming a mother in Part 3 of her interview. She also discussed her relationship with the media and her ideas on how India may develop into a sporting nation.

About her ‘love-hate’ relationship with the media, Sania said, “I think media is not trolling, media is being media. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the media. Lately, it’s been more love than hate. Before it used to be more hate than love. But, in the process of that, I have made some really good friends in the media as well, what happened was I think that initially when I came, everybody was taken by surprise because there was no other woman athlete that was a star."

“And so it was a fun ride for both of us. I think they were learning. I was bouncing off them. They were bouncing off me. It got boring at some point to talk only about forehand and backhand. So, they started talking about what I wore, who I had and didn’t have dinner with, why did I have dinner. So, I guess they needed to sell their newspapers and I needed to protect my sanity. But over time, we’ve begun to like each other more and we have a great relationship now,” Sania was quoted as saying in the release.

Sania claimed that during the course of her 20-year career, she had come to the realisation that certain media people just discussed her clothing to get attention, but that it had no impact on her because her parents supported her.

“I was not conscious at all. I think that a lot of it was also media created because it got boring to talk about one same girl, every day playing forehands and backhands, so how much will they want to talk about it? So, it got boring and they wanted to make it spicy and a lot of my issues that happened with me in my early years were a lot of media created, unfortunately. And that is just the way it was. And I was never nervous. And that is because I had my parents. I knew no matter what, they had my back. And I think that is where my parents came where they had this solid grounding for me where I believed, regardless of anything that happens in my life, this core that I have will never go in the form of my friends and family and stuff. So, I was never scared to do anything because I always knew they had my back.”

When asked what needed to be done to ensure that the nation produces another Sania Mirza, the Hyderabad-born tennis great said that only a complete cultural shift, investment in sports, and the establishment of a system that would nurture children from an early age would be successful.

“We cannot become a sporting nation four months before the Olympics and then be a sporting nation four months after and then that’s it for four years. We are not a sporting nation. We are a cricketing nation. And people don’t like it when I say that. But that’s the truth. And sometimes you have to hear the truth to make a change. We are not somebody, especially when a girl is born, we don’t say, ‘Let’s make her an athlete.’ That is not what is said at all. If you go to Australia, that is a sporting nation where you are going and watching any sport and it’s packed.”

“So, first, we have to change the culture, second, we have to get a system in place and third, we need to nurture kids from the age of eight, nine, ten and not wait for them to become something and then invest money in them or invest time in them. Also, I think it’s very important that we have the right kind of coaches and trainers, whether that’s brought in from outside to train the people that we have here or just bring in people from outside to nurture these kids that you are identifying, that will be your tomorrow,” said Sania.

Sania also discussed motherhood, saying it was a well-considered choice to have a child while she was among the top 10 in the world doubles rankings, her choice to return to the circuit while carrying her son, and how she dropped 26 kilos in just four months and went on to win her first tournament in Hobart, Australia.

“For me, it was not just about proving to myself that I have tennis left in me at the highest levels. It was also, like I said, setting an example that as young mothers, your life doesn’t get over because you have a child, it’s the beginning of life."

“And just because you put yourself forward does not make you a bad mother. It doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad woman. It makes you human. And if a man can do that without thinking twice about it, then why can’t a woman do it? So, that was a couple of motivations that I had. And when people are saying I can’t do it, then I have to do it. Like there is no way we are not doing that. That was the inner rebel in me,” said Sania.

Get updates! Follow us on

Open all