Sania Mirza is the best female tennis player India has produced. In January 2020, when she returned to the court after her maternity break, she lost neither her zest for the sport nor, more importantly for her game, the formidable power in her forehand.
It was the same Sania Mirza who was a six-time Grand Slam champion, a former world number one in doubles, and a four-time Olympian.
The Rio 2016 Olympic semifinalist is currently the most successful active doubles player on the WTA circuit with 42 doubles titles. And although she is the only Indian to break into the top 30 of the WTA singles rankings, Sania Mirza has enjoyed most of her success in doubles.
In particular, her partnership with Martina Hingis was very fruitful. The pumped-up laughs of Sania and Hingis were a sight not only for Swiss and Indian fans but for tennis fans around the world. The pair fed off each other’s energy in the new stages of their careers and enjoyed uninhibited tennis.
Hingis/Mirza, the scoreboard says, laid hands on three Grand Slam titles and two WTA Finals titles between 2015 and 2016, in addition to a record 41-match winning streak as a pair.
Sania Mirza was born in Mumbai and moved to Hyderabad at a very young age and started playing tennis when she was six years old before her father started coaching her himself as the cost of equipment and travel was high.
Her talent was undeniable. Leander Paes partnered Sania Mirza in mixed doubles at the Asian Games in 2002, giving her her big break and helping them win bronze.
She soon became the first Indian woman to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament at the US Open in 2005 and then became the first Indian woman to win a WTA title in the same year.
Fast forward to 2009, when she won her first Grand Slam, the Australian Open mixed doubles title, with Mahesh Bhupathi. The pair added a second title at the 2012 French Open before teaming up with Brazilian Bruno Soares at the 2014 US Open.
Meanwhile, her performance in 2015 saw her climb to No. 1 in the world doubles rankings. That year, Sania Mirza, who continued to play alongside Martina Hingis, won Wimbledon’s inaugural women’s Grand Slam. Two months later, the pair maintained their success by winning the US Open and the 2016 Australian Open.
And after her Olympic debut in Beijing 2008, it was in Rio 2016 that Sania Mirza came closest to winning a mixed doubles medal alongside Rohan Bopanna.
The Indian duo seeded fourth in the event in Rio, battled through some tough challenges that included the British duo of Heather Watson and Andy Murray. However, they would not be enough in the semi-finals, against Americans Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram in a close match.
Considering that the bronze is still up for grabs,
The Indian pair would have a hard time doing well against Lucia Hradecka and Radek Štěpánek, who are going down in straight sets. Mirza stated that it was the most disappointing defeat of her life.
Sania Mirza married Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik in 2010 and the couple became parents to a son, Izhaan Mirza Malik, in 2018.
As a result, she took a maternity break from tennis but returned to the court in style, winning the doubles title at the 2020 Hobart International and then leading India to their first-ever Fed Cup playoffs. She stated that one of the reasons she returned was to encourage women to pursue their ambitions.
Tokyo 2020 marked Sania Mirza’s fourth Olympic appearance. Competing with Ankita Raina in the women’s doubles, Sania Mirza’s campaign ended in the first round.
The Indian pair dominated Ukrainian twins Nadia Kichenok and Lyudmyla Kichenok in the early stages but dropped the ball in the closing stages and lost in a tie-break.
With honors like the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and the Padma Bhushan, Sania Mirza’s accomplishments have encouraged a broad and steadily expanding interest in tennis in India.