It has been a few weeks since I achieved the magical ranking of world no. 1 in women's doubles, and the feeling has finally begun to sink in! The circuit is gruelling and most of us travel and play about 30 weeks a year to survive on this roller-coaster ride called 'professional tennis'.
Within hours of landing in India, I had to be on court in Hyderabad, proudly donning my Indian colours, as we competed in the Fed Cup multinational tournament organised by the Telangana State Tennis Association.
Despite the long hours that I spent on court with my fellow teammates, battling it out against teams from ten other countries, we found time to attend a wonderful dinner planned and hosted jointly by the All India Tennis Association and my family. It was the most loving, touching tribute to my achievement, and it left me teary-eyed.
The guest list at the event included so many of my own amongst a galaxy of superstars from Bollywood, Tollywood and the sporting fraternity. The AITA was in full strength and there were smiles of joy all around on the proud, familiar faces of officials—some of whom had seen me virtually grow since I picked up a tennis racquet for the first time 22 years ago.
It was difficult to miss the feeling of oneness and the general sense of elation that evening. It was an endorsement of the tremendous love and affection that I have been fortunate to be showered with throughout my career.
The hour-long event included emotionally charged speeches by some family members, dear friend Farah Khan, Anil Khanna and Shatrughan Sinha. This was interspersed with an impromptu interview of mine, as the witty Sajid Khan decided to add an element of fun to the occasion. The icing on the cake, however, was the short film, with moving tributes from family members, made by my sister Anam.
Talking of cakes, how can I not mention sumptuous, traditional Hyderabadi food was served in the backdrop of the majestic Falaknuma Palace—the perfect ambience for the unforgettable occasion?
The whole experience, I believe, boosted the spirits of the Fed Cup team. We put in a special effort the next evening; Prarthana Thombare and I won the crucial doubles encounter against the Philippines in the final to carry India to the top of the eleven-nation Asia-Oceania Group II Fed Cup tournament.
With the victory, we ensured our promotion into Group I for 2016. I hope this will be a forerunner to many more successes for Indian tennis in the years to come.