Her feat was the best achievement for Indian tennis in the 2015 season.
Sania Mirza, the iconic Indian tennis diva, scaled a new high in the game by becoming the world No.1 female doubles player recently.
The title triumph of Sania and her partner Martina Hingis in the season ending Women’s Tennis Association’s finals in Singapore in early November, cemented the Indo-Swiss combination’s credentials as the No.1 doubles pair in the women’s tennis. The feat of Sania Mirza was the best achievement for Indian tennis in the 2015 season.
Sania indeed has struck the gold when she convinced the former world No.1 and multiple Grand Slam champion Martina to play along with her and ever since they came together at Indian Wells Tour event nine months ago, the duo has been on a roll. Consider their current record: they won two Grand Slam this season – Wimbledon and the US Open - and won nine tour titles out of the 10 finals they had played so far.
“It has been incredible and it goes to show how good our bonding is and chemistry on court”, said Sania Mirza. The very presence of the former world No.1 and multiple Grand Slam singles champion Martina by her side, has pushed Sania to perform much better. She has shown sharp reflexes, her forehand is as potent as ever, and interestingly there is a sting to her first serve. Some of the best qualities that Martina has, seemed to rub off on Sania.
The pair showed the world, why they are the No1 combination when they demolished all their rivals with clinical efficiency at Singapore.
Sania has played with many other partners in the past. However, in terms of sheer consistency, the partnership with Martina Hingis is easily the best. In fact, playing with Martina has been very special for her as she won her first women’s doubles Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in June this year. Earlier, her Grand Slam titles came with her male partners in mixed doubles. She first won the Australian Open mixed doubles title with Mahesh Bhupathi in 2009.
Again in 2012 she won the French Open title with Mahesh Bhupathi and the US Open mixed doubles title in 2014 with Bruno Soares of Brazil. Her other notable title victories in doubles came in the Asian Games (2008 and 2012) and Commonwealth Games (2010).
In a way, it is ironic that Sania has been making huge impact in doubles rather than in singles. Ever since she burst on the international scene in 2003, it was her singles career that mattered to her most. She was rapidly climbing the singles chart and by mid-2007, she was ranked world No. 27, the highest ranking ever achieved by an Indian woman player.
But in the next couple of years, a spate of injuries, especially one in her wrist, saw her cut down on the singles play. By 2013, she had to give up singles altogether. Sania then chose to stretch her tennis career by embracing doubles with commendable fortitude and since then, her doubles career has been sky-rocketing at a tremendous pace.
One of the major assets of Sania has been her mental toughness. She never strayed from her focus on the game, though controversies came to haunt her. Early in her career, a Muslim group objected to her short tennis attire and in 2010, she got embroiled in a row that All India Tennis Association (AITA) had with Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna over the selection of Indian team for London Olympics.
Last year, when Telangana named her as the State’s brand ambassador, a BJP MLA questioned her “Indian-ness” as she was married to Pakistani cricketer, Shoaib Malik. But Sania never let those issues pull her down.
A grateful nation, acknowledging Sania’s contribution to Indian sports and the country, bestowed on her Arjuna Award in 2003 and Padma Shri in 2006. The ultimate accolade came a few months ago, when she was given the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, the highest honour in Indian sports.
As she looks forward to another great season in 2016, a major challenge awaits her in the next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Winning an Olympic medal has been a dream for her. “If it has to happen, it will happen”, she said. Her fans in India hope that it indeed happens!