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Sania Mirza: Bright star on tennis horizon

One of the finest doubles players in the world and among the greatest ones to have ever represented India, she has won six Grand Slam doubles titles. She is the first Indian woman to have won a singles WTA title and from 2003 to 2013 was ranked India’s No. 1.

inspiring-lives Updated: Nov 18, 2019 15:39 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sania Mirza in 2004 was awarded the Arjuna Award and a year later was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year.
Sania Mirza in 2004 was awarded the Arjuna Award and a year later was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year.(ILLUSTRATION: Unnikrishnan)

Born to Imran Mirza, a sports journalist, and Naseema in Mumbai on November 15, 1986. After her birth, her family moved to Hyderabad where she studied at Nasr Girls’ School. She began playing tennis at the age of 6. She used to play at Nizam Club in Hyderabad. In 2001, she started playing in ITF tournaments and the following year she won three titles to cement her credentials as an upcoming player.

Mirza won 10 singles and 13 doubles titles as a junior player. She graduated from the St Mary’s College in Himayatnagar, Hyderabad, and in 2008 received an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the MGR Educational and Research Institute University in Chennai.

Career

After turning into a professional in 2003, she won the Wimbledon Junior Championship in the same year. In addition, she also won four gold medals at the Afro-Asian games held in Hyderabad. In 2004, Sania won six ITF singles titles and the following year she reached the third round of Australian Open. In 2005, she became the first Indian woman to win a WTA singles title by defeating Ukrainian Alona Bondarenko in the final. Two years later, she played in all the Grand Slams and rose to the highest singles rank at 27. The next year, she suffered a wrist injury and pulled out of French Open and US Open tournaments. Mirza began concentrating on doubles events in 2011. She won two French Open mixed doubles titles with tennis player, Mahesh Bhupathi.

The duo of Mirza and Cara Black reached the semi-finals of the US Open in 2014. Mirza later partnered with Martina Hingis and won in Indian Wells and at the 2015 Miami Open. The duo also won the Wimbledon title in 2015, her first Grand Slam win in women’s doubles. They also won the 2015 WTA finals and followed it up with the US Open in the same year. The following year, the same pair won the Australian Open Women’s doubles title. Overall, her Grand Slam doubles victories are Australian Open (2016), Wimbledon and US Open (2015), while her Grand Slam mixed doubles victories are Australian Open (2009), French Open (2012) and US Open (2014). In 2017, Sania was unable to find any other committed player.

Achievements & awards

In 2004, Mirza was awarded the Arjuna Award and a year later she was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year. She received the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in 2015. She was honoured with the Padma Shri in 2006 and the Padma Bhushan in 2016. Mirza has achieved a number of firsts, winning a singles WTA title and six Grand Slam titles. Named one of the 50 Heroes of Asia by the Time Magazine in 2005, she was again named on its (Time’s) 2016 list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Personal life

In 2010, she married Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik in Hyderabad. According to data from Google Trends, their wedding became an online sensation making Mirza the most-searched woman tennis player and Indian sportsperson that year.The couple was blessed with a son, Izhaan Mirza Malik in 2018. Currently, the six-time Grand Slam winner is working hard to return to competitive tennis by January 2020. Apart from tennis, Mirza is also particularly good at cricket and swimming.

INTERESTING FACTS

1. Mirza was coached by her father Imran Mirza and C G Krishna Bhupathi (father of tennis star Mahesh Bhupathi). She took up tennis at the age of six. She was also coached by Roger Anderson.

2. On April 12, 2015, she made history as the first female tennis player from India to rank World no. 1 in doubles. The WTA rankings follows a merit-based method to determine the rankings.

3. Mirza is a distant relative of former cricket players Ghulam Ahmed who was an off-spin bowler and captained India and former captain of Pakistan and referee Asif Iqbal.

4. Mirza was the first South Asian to be appointed as the UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador for South Asia on November 25, 2013 on the International Day To End Violence Against Women.

5Mirza launched a tennis academy in Hyderabad in March 2013. Former world No.1 and multiple Grand Slam winners, Cara Black and Martina Navratilova both had visited the academy.

SOURCES: WTA, www.saniamirzatennisacademy.com, Ace Against Odds, Wikipedia

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