'Hard for Pak women to excel in tennis'

Interview - Sarah Mahboob

By Saurav Bora in Guwahati
  • Published 11.02.16

Guwahati, Feb. 10: Pakistan's ace tennis player Sarah Mahboob Khan says it's tough for women in her country to compete at the international level, given the lack of tournaments and sponsors.

"It's really hard to compete at the top level after playing just six or seven national tournaments in a year in Pakistan. There are hardly any doubles events for women in Pakistan, unlike in India, where you have so many tournaments in a week. Besides, the sponsors back home, too, are not willing to invest in women's tennis," Sarah, who turned 25 on Tuesday, told The Telegraph, after losing in straight sets against India in the women's doubles quarter-finals in the 12th South Asian Games here.

The only player to have won national titles on clay, hardcourt and grass in Pakistan, Sarah says she is fortunate to have her father, Mahboob Khan, as coach.

"We still do not have the required infrastructure for tennis in Pakistan. But the facilities in Islamabad Club that has 10 clay courts are good. But not everyone has access to the club. My father is a member of the club and, therefore, I had the chance to train under him there. It also helps when tennis is in the family," she said.

"Despite the odds, women in Pakistan play tennis for the love of the sport," she said.

Sarah also feels that India and Pakistan should often play each other.

"We can achieve peace through sports. It helps lighten the tension....Pakistani people are very peaceful...I'm sure Indian people are too. My mom was born and based in India. I have a lot of relatives here. I love India," she said.

Sarah, who became the youngest-ever national champion at the age of 14, had come back to Pakistan in May last year after graduating from James Madison University in Virginia (US) where she played for their team for four years.

On being asked whether women in Pakistan take up tennis to get scholarships in the US, she said: "I am sure that's not the case always. Ever since I was a child, I wanted to become a professional tennis player, play in Grand Slams and become number one. But as you grow older, you set realistic goals. When I was about 20, I realised that the only option to play tennis abroad was to attain a 100 per cent scholarship in the US.

On her American accent, the bubbly girl smiled and said: "Apart from the US, I also lived in Kuwait when I was younger and my father used to teach tennis at the American embassy there."

"Well, the facilities are incredible here given that Guwahati is not centrally located," she said on being asked to share her impression of this city.