Sania Mirza calls the Australian Open her favourite Grand Slam. And the courts at Melbourne Park have been very kind in return. After all, she has won two Majors here – a mixed doubles with Mahesh Bhupathi in 2009 and the women’s doubles with Martina Hingis last year.
On Sunday, she’s in line to win a third at the Rod Laver Arena when she takes to the court with Croatian partner Ivan Dodig. Seeded second, they will meet the unseeded American-Colombian duo of Abigail Spears and Juan Sebastian Cabal in the mixed doubles final.
For the statistically minded, this is the second time Sania Mirza and Ivan Dodig have made a Grand Slam final as a pair.
After joining forces last season, they reached the French Open final before losing to Leander Paes and Hingis in a closely-fought encounter.
If the Indo-Croatian pair triumphs on Sunday, Sania will pocket her seventh Grand Slam overall and fourth mixed title.
Sania’s resume already has three mixed titles (2009 Australian Open, 2012 French Open, 2014 US Open) and the equal number in women’s doubles (Wimbledon and US Open 2015, Australian Open 2016).
For Ivan, it will be his second Major after the 2015 French Open men’s doubles title with Marcelo Melo.
So far, Sania and Ivan haven’t had it easy.
Having played three Super tiebreak matches, the most difficult was in the quarters when they faced Rohan Bopanna and Gabriela Debrowski. They won 12-10 by the skin of their teeth.
Sania and Dodig defeated the all-Aussie pair of Sam Groth and Sam Stosur 6-4 2-6 (10-5) in another hard-fought semis clash.
On the other hand, their final opponents have had a relatively easier path having won all their previous rounds in straight sets.
But, without any mixed Major to their names, Spears and Cabal will have to worry about the wealth of experience Sania brings to the final.
It was the Indian’s experience of being in pressure situations that saw them through the difficult Super tiebreaks.
“We’re used to (tiebreaks)… You have to always focus on your serve,” said Sania in a candid interview after she held serve in a crucial juncture to get the pair into the final.
Having a partner who you’re comfortable with is very important and the Sania-Ivan camaraderie is evident. “We obviously try and complement each other on the court. It’s a lot of fun and we’re really happy to be in our second final of a Slam and hopefully we can win it this time,” Sania added, eager for Sunday to arrive.
They will take to the court before the blockbuster evening final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.