HYDERABAD, India - India’s Sania Mirza was just starting to find her rhythm after coming back from maternity leave, winning the 2020 Hobart International title in her first tournament back. But the former doubles World No.1 had to put her comeback on pause - along with the rest of the world - after the global coronavirus pandemic left the tennis season suspended until July 13. 

Mirza is currently spending the lockdown at home with her family and son Izhaan in Hyderabad - the only one missing is her husband, professional cricketer Shoaib Malik, who has been stuck in his native Pakistan. 

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“He got stuck midway through playing a tournament when they went into lockdown,” Mirza told Tennis United last week. “It’s been about three months [since I’ve seen him], since lockdown… before I left for Dubai.”

“I don’t know when he’s going to be able to see Izhaan. It’s not easy, not knowing, but at least we’re safe.”

Mirza was a guest on last week’s episode of Tennis United, where she chatted with co-host Bethanie Mattek-Sands about spending life in self-isolation with Izhaan, her thoughts on her abbreviated comeback, and her friendship with the American player. She also shared the work she’s been doing in Hyderabad to support the local community through these tough times.

 "I wanted to do something, and I thought like, yeah I can donate but in donating you can only do a certain amount as an individual,” Mirza explained. “You can do so much more collectively if there’s more people involved, and you actually get into a movement of sorts.”

Mirza has lent her support to Youth Feed India, an NGO that puts together and distributes provision packages for some of India’s neediest residents, including daily wage workers, elder widows and single mothers. Each provision package supplies enough food for a family of four for a week, and are currently distributed in six of India’s largest cities - including Mirza’s hometown in Hyderabad.

The organization has already raised more than 12,500,000 Indian rupees (approximately $165,749 USD) to date, with the packages going out to over 100,000 families.

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“We were supplying just these daily wage workers, who literally go day to day and now suddenly have zero money because of the lockdown,” she said. “They just have nothing coming in anymore, no food, and they still have stomachs to feed.” 

The player has also launched a social media campaign to support local Indian businesses as they get back on their feet after the COVID-19 lockdown. Mirza has pledged to give 20 brands a social media shoutout using the hashtag #SupportSmallbySania.

“Let’s encourage each other to support local now more than ever,” Mirza posted on Instagram.

It’s all a continuation of Mirza’s legacy of philanthropy in India, where she is the nation’s biggest women’s sport superstar and a leader for gender equality in sports. In 2013, she opened the Sania Mirza Tennis Academy in Hyderabad, which in 2017 expanded to include a grassroots academy for promising children. In an effort to recognize rural and underprivileged talent, the academy instructs select students at no charge. 

Follow the WTA 4 Love campaign to learn more about how the tennis community is coming together during the COVID-19 pandemic..