Bangalore, Oct 21: Sania Mirza is back on the tennis court, cracking forehands - pain free. Only two months ago, scenes of the big-hitting 21-year-old making a premature exit from the Olympic Games in a pool of tears were flashed from Beijing. Sania was frustrated as much by the physical pain as with the hopelessness of her situation.
The situation then, was worse than spectators, fans and even connoisseurs had imagined. The pain was so bad that Sania couldn't even lift a fork, let alone wield a tennis racquet. However, the cure has been quick and almost miraculous, thanks to a 26-year-old physiotherapist who practices the nascent South Korean science of spiral therapy, which is cell regeneration.
Shortly after the Olympic Games, Sania was in a private hell, doctors were clueless, the pain was bad and the forecast, dismal. That's when she got a call from star Indian cricketer Yuvraj Singh, who urged the striking Hyderabadi to give physiotherapist Jatin Chaudhry's treatment a shot.
"Yuvi told me that there was this doctor who could cure me in seven to ten days," Sania told TOI. "The call came at a time when I was staring surgery in the face for the second time in six months and thinking, that's another year of my tennis gone. I had gone to the best doctors in the world, had surgery and nothing was working. Sometimes, I couldn't even feel my little finger, the pain was numbing. Yuvi told me that Jatin fixed his shoulder in ten minutes, and that it could work for me too.
After the Olympics, Sania's management team, headed by father Imran, had flown in top notch Aussie physiotherapist Amir Takla, who finally deduced the problem as a post surgery complication, possibly due to poor rehabilitation. Sania's joints are hyper mobile (excessively flexible), which is the reason why she cracks such a powerful, wristy forehand. However, post-surgery - in Miami in April - the scar tissue that had grown over the wound was too thick and it cost her mobility.
Takla was of the view that Sania needed to go in for another surgery in which the scar tissue could be scraped off so that the wrist would regain 100 percent mobility. He couldn't, however, guarantee that the wrist would regain full mobility even after surgery. But surgery, along with a cortisone shot, was her best option.
"For an athlete, surgery is one of the worst things. From being completely active, you go to being dependent on someone else for everything and that's really difficult to live with," Sania pointed out.
"When I had my knee surgery last year, I went from chasing tennis balls to getting off the bed and getting around in crutches. After my wrist surgery in April, I needed help to dress, to eat. My decision to go to Delhi and meet Jatin didn't go down very well with my father. He was sceptical at first. I didn't want to have another surgery. I wanted to do everything in my power to see if I could recover without surgery."
Sania flew into Delhi in early September with her mother. A dark cloud of doubt hovered over her career. The pain in her wrist was becoming unbearable. "I was struggling to even lift a glass of water. I had to really concentrate to lift a glass of water and then if I managed to lift the glass I couldn't tilt it to my mouth to drink the water, that's how bad I was. I consider myself a strong person, to breakdown at the Olympics the way I did was a low point in my life," Sania said.
"After the surgery (in April) I had only got back 50 to 60 percent of movement on my wrist. The way I hit my forehand the mobility of the wrist is crucial," Sania explained.
"When I went to Jatin, he put some 30-35 needles on my index finger, and every time he hit the spot I felt an electric current go through me. He left the needles on for 30 minutes and he did this about three-four times a day. It was very painful, because the more times he did it the more sore the finger felt. After two days he asked me to bend my wrist and I had regained 90 per cent of the movement. Just before I started the treatment I had done an ultra sound and there were cysts in the area. After 10 days of treatment, there was no significant scarring tissue, my bones were fine and the two cysts were gone."
Choudhry, a physiotherapist by profession, has done his Ph.D in Sports Medicine and has specialized in the rare South Korean science of spiral therapy, which is the regeneration of body cells.
"As I was recovering, I called Amir," Sania said. "Both Amir and Jatin had come up with the same diagnosis, so obviously Amir was stunned. You can call this many things, therapy, regeneration... I would just like to call it a miracle. Even after a second surgery nobody was promising full mobility, and look at me now, I'm fine now."
Sania, who is in Delhi training, said, she had called Yuvraj to thank him. The star cricketer was quick to retort: "I've never been under so much pressure!"
"I hit for an hour today and I don't feel any pain, my forearm is a little weak still because of the inactivity, but I'm feeling good," an upbeat Sania said. She, however, refused to put a finger on the date of her return to the professional tour.
"I'm taking it one day at a time," she said. "I have to work on strengthening my arm, I've started by boxing and I'm landing punches without pain. The season is almost coming to an end.
"My return to the Tour could happen at the start of the next season or it could happen earlier. The important thing is to take my time and not rush it.