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Sania Mirza is a global star. She is an inspiration to millions of girls around the world, and an idol for thousands back home. All along the way, from playing tennis in Hyderabad to becoming the world’s best female doubles tennis player, Sania has touched many lives.
Her journey is not only a personal achievement but also a treasured success story for all Indians. Time and time again, Sania has reached where no India-born female tennis player has ever reached. Time and time again, Sania has made India proud.
Born to play
It all started long back in a certain summer vacation when Sania was 6. Sania was quoted as saying:
“I used to go swimming and passed the tennis courts every day, and that’s how it started. My mum said, ‘Why don’t you play tennis in your summer holidays because you have nothing to do except swim for an hour or whatever?’ and that’s how I started playing.”
But the naysayers were always there for Sania. When Sania’s mother, Nasima Mirza, took her to a coach, the coach was reluctant to train her. The reason cited by the coach was that Sania was “too small”. As Sania has done throughout her career, she turned every naysayer to her supporter. Within a month’s time Sania’s coach was compelled to tell her parents “he’d never seen a player that good at such a young age”.
Since then Sania has never looked back. With every victory, with every match, Sania is making and breaking records.
Journey to the top
The future looked promising for the young talent. Sania bagged 10 singles titles and 13 doubles titles as a junior player. The collection includes the illustrious Wimbledon Girls’ Doubles title of 2003. As Sania entered the WTA circuit, she became the pride of India.
Representing India in the Fed cup, she won three consecutive matches. Sania also brought home a bronze medal in the Asian games of 2002, bagging it in the mixed doubles category. Sania was on the right track and the future was bright. Sania would go on to win 271 singles matches and reach a career high ranking of 27 before injuries plagued her. Many critics felt Sania’s tale had reached its end. But Sania had other plans in mind.
In 2012, Sania decided to compete only in doubles, a decision that has done wonders for her. Sports is about making the right decisions at the right time and this decision catapulted Sania to a long and successful career. Saina tasted extraordinary success when she paired up with Martina Hingis.
Santina vs Everyone
When Sania teamed up with Martina Hingis, most critics predicted that one and one will combine to form zilch. The reason behind such prediction was that Sania’s game was built on her ferocious ground strokes, especially from the forehand wing while Martina was known for her delicate touches. These two combined to prove the critics wrong as they complimented each other’s games perfectly.
Martina had the following to say about her fellow partner and friend:
“Sania has a merciless forehand and her well-placed serve starts us perfectly in each point.Where other people would break their bones, she calmly produces winners with an incredible flick of the wrist.”
The partnership found instant success as they won all of their first three tournaments-Indian Wells Masters, Miami Open and Family Circles Cup- together. With wins coming in one after the other the confidence was sky-high. Santina was the team to beat. It was Santina vs the rest of the world.
Their popularity amongst tennis fans and their fear amongst rivals grew with time.Their success story continued even at the highest echelons of tennis, the Grand Slams. Santina won the 2015 Wimbledon and U.S. Open. They followed it up by winning the 2016 Australian Open to hold three of the four slams at one time.
With every win, Sania and Martina were drawing closer to bettering 44 match win-streak of Jana Novotna and Helena Sukova. Santina eventually lost their 42nd match but the run was nothing short of spectacular. They had made the impact and they were at the top of the rankings. These two athletes became one of the most loved pairing in the world. The reason was not only their on-court achievements but also their off-court chemistry. The Swiss- Indo pair seemed to gel well together even when they were away from the tennis courts.
Sania has paired with a number of partners throughout her career but it is safe to say that partner number 70, Martina, brought the best out of her.
Awards and Honours
Since Sania turned pro in 2003 she has continually risen to fame. In 2004, Sania was awarded with the Arjuna award for her outstanding achievements at the national level. The award won her praise from biggest of names in the country. In 2005 she started gaining recognition worldwide, as she bagged the WTA Newcomer of the year award.With impressive performances, her rankings improved. From an year-end ranking of 206 and 178 in singles and doubles respectively in 2004, Sania ended 2007 ranked 32 and 18. She was awarded with the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 2006.
As Sania continued to rise in rankings, her collection of trophies steadily grew. So much so, she now has a room in her house, exclusively dedicated to her trophies. In 2013, she was chosen as the UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador for South Asia. As Santina partnership ruled the tennis world in recent years, a string of awards followed for Sania. In 2015, Sania was bestowed upon with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award. Some of the big names that have won this record include Sachin Tendulkar, Leander Paes, Viswanathan Anand, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, et al.
The following year, she was honoured with the Padma Bhushan, the third highest Civilian award in India. As the proud girl, dressed in white, made her way to the stage, the audience were applauding achievements that most tennis players had only dreamt of. 2015-16 saw Mirza’s popularity grow many-folds worldwide. Time magazine featured Sania Mirza in their 100 most influential people in world list of 2016. Who would have thought that a “small” girl will one day stand alongside the greatest of names.
As Sania continues to shine and bring laurels to India, support continues to pour in for her and encourage her to reach greater heights. With Wimbledon and Rio Olympics round the corner, world joins India to cheer for Sania Mirza.