KARACHI: “I want to see Pakistani women at the grand slam level, but I also know it is not easy,” the young and up-coming tennis player Oreen Jasia explained with a mixed expression; it was hope and disappointment all at the same time.
The 21-year-old is adamant that her journey can take her there as she sets her eyes on 2020, giving herself at least a year and a half to even think of going full-on at the international circuit.
Her goal is to see any Pakistani women at the highest level in tennis, and not just herself, but it is with her own thought that she can go all out to even try.
She is among the top five players in the country, but her focus is more towards international success.
Her tennis journey began when she was 14 years of age, a credit she gives to her mother.
“I saw tennis while growing up, thanks to my mother, she really loves the sport,” the Peshawar-based athlete told The Express Tribune. “I’ve been here in Pakistan for a few years, before that I was in Germany and it was good exposure, but while being here, things are different, the facilities are different, and I can tell that women also want to play tennis.”
She continued: “Even in a city like Peshawar, I have seen more girls coming to play tennis now than before. It is just a matter of time that we can also have one of our women at the WTA level. And I certainly want to aim high. But to me, even if I can’t make it, I want somebody from our nation to go that far.”
Oreen began competing at the age group levels first and even won the U23 tournament, while just last month she reached the quarter-finals of the Subh-e-Nau Ladies Tournament in Islamabad, where she lost to Pakistan’s top player Sara Mansoor.
But this does not discourage her.
“There are great players in Pakistan, but at this point I want to think and train with the bitter truth that internationally especially in the women’s tennis we have not made a mark, not even at the Fed Cup level,” said Oreen.
Her idea of Fed Cup is a tough one too, for herself, if she gets selected for the team one day.
“I feel women’s tennis needs improvement, and for now, we have to start thinking of winning the Fed Cup, instead of just going there and participating. I would love to see our women win the group finals too, but as a country we are falling far behind,” said Oreen.
Her approach may come across as a lofty one, but she is not fooling herself either.
In fact she knows the cost of playing tennis in a society like Pakistan’s, like Peshawar.
“I’m a Pakhtoon. I’m new to Pakistan too, but I can tell you even with my parents’ support it is not easy. Many relatives from our own extended family do not approve of me playing tennis, they have cut ties with my parent,” said Oreen with a heavy heart. “My own family members stopped talking to my parents just because they were letting me play the sport I love, and in which I can contribute positively.”
She added that with time it only becomes more difficult for women to continue in the field of sports as in Pakistani culture a girl needs to get married at a certain age.
But for Oreen the first inspiration came from none other than Roger Federer, while her favourite tennis player among women is Serena Williams along with Simona Halep.
All of whom have defied the injuries and age barriers.
“When I look at these tennis stars I learn,” said Oreen, adding that being Pakistan number one is not unachievable, but it is her dream to play at the level that her tennis idols play.
“In Pakistan, the circuit still has limited players, so being Pakistan number one is not as difficult, but the real victory will be to go on the professional level. Tennis is a game of hard work; age matters but in tennis it is about how fit a player can remain. I feel I have enough time.”
Oreen plays for Army at the local events and she makes sure that she trains at least three hours a day, along with gym while keeping up with her education.
She added that even getting simple things right has been tough, but she is on her way, like she got her kit sponsored by Mehmood Ali Bangash, who make sports gear, while her coaches at Army are guiding her to improve her games, especially her left hand.
“My strength are my forehand and drops shots for sure, but I really need to work hard on my left hand, and it is again about the dedication, I know it will not be easy to reach the highest level,” concluded Oreen.