When I went to Hyderabad to visit Sania Mirza, she was a picture of calm. At home after back-to-back wins on the tour with new partner Cara Black, the duo had yet to lose a match.
"After working so hard don't you think we deserve a break at New Year's?" she asked. She chose to start her campaign in Sydney, a week later than usual. Though it wasn't the ideal of starts, her hard off court workouts during the off season is clearly showing at the Australian Open. After all, on Friday, she made the final of her favourite Grand Slam once again.
Partnering Romania's Horia Tecau, the sixth seeds beat defending champions Jarmila Gajdosova and Mathew Ebden 2-6, 6-3, 10-2 to reach their first Grand Slam final as a pair. The duo joined hands at Wimbledon last season where they made the quarters and at the US Open had reached the semis.
But Melbourne Park by far has to be Sania's favourite hunting ground. When I had asked her why she loves this Slam so much, she had said that 'it felt like home'.
"I have family there whom I get to meet and have ghar ka khana. They are 20 minutes away so it's always nice to be surrounded by family when you're on the road," is what she had said.
That may be a factor in her clinical performances at Melbourne, because on Friday, she made the mixed doubles at the Rod Laver Arena for the third time in her career. After ending runner-up with Mahesh Bhupathi in 2008, they came back the next year to win the crown. Her other mixed doubles title came in Roland Garros in 2012 with Bhupathi.
Sania's blasting forehand is her strength. It can cause so much devastation that when she was still playing singles; the world's top players were trying to decode the whipping forehand by analysing it from all angles.
And yet, most failed. But when injuries finally caught up with the 27-year-old, Sania decided it was time to focus on doubles. "You know I tried to make a comeback in singles. But after a point I just couldn't continue due to the surgeries and injuries," Sania had said.
So 2013 was the first season she played doubles exclusively. And how did she finish the year? At No 9 of course. Not only was the season her most successful with five WTA crowns, but she was the first one on the tour to get to that number.
During the off season, Sania worked incredibly hard on her fitness and strokes. Two sessions of tennis – morning and afternoon – followed by the gym and eating right. She's become leaner and fitter.
When she organised the year-ending camp for the top Indian players at her new academy – the Sania Mirza Tennis Academy – Cara Black flew down especially to train with her for the 2014 season.
With Tecau, their combination really seems to have clicked. While she devastates with her forehand, the Romanian backs her up with his incredible volleys and booming serves. When they play the final on Sunday, they take on the winner of the match between Jie Zheng/Scott Lipsky and Kristina Mladenovic/Daniel Nestor. The question remains, will Sania be able to lift her third mixed doubles title? Well, she sure hopes so.