Fearless and peerless, Sania leaves behind a giant footprint and lasting legacy

Correct strategy: Sania Mirza’s steadfast and courageous attitude has paid rich dividends. | Photo Credit: AFP

For a professional athlete, every day is an exercise in the impossible. Doubts creep in, demons rage, the body wears out and you lose more than you win. To maintain a veneer of stoicism, remain calm on and off the pitch, have a vision and code the path to glory is a task beyond most.

Sania Mirza has done it for nearly two decades, in a lonely, mentally draining and grueling sport. He didn’t quite obliterate everyone on a tennis court. But in her prime, she rose above the rest and still surpasses all Indian women’s tennis players.

Sania first came to prominence after the turn of the millennium when the Williams sisters – Venus and Serena – who play until now unseen strength and power, and all round shot-making, changed the game. For legions of Indian fans, who fantasize about watching touch artists shine on pristine grass courts, this is a brush with a new reality.

India's global icon: Sania Mirza inspired a generation of tennis players.

India’s global icon: Sania Mirza has inspired a generation of tennis players. | Image Credit: GETTY IMAGES

But Sania was undeterred, and with her in-your-face attitude permeating her tennis, she reached the third round at the 2005 Australian Open in her Slam singles debut. He was neither balletic nor blessed with quick feet, but he hit hard, especially with the forehand, and possessed a natural ability to overcome intense nerves.

Sania reached No. 27, the highest for an Indian woman, and for a large part of a four-year period (2005-08), she was in the top-32. Between February 2005 and September 2006, she won her only WTA title (Hyderabad) and earned three top-10 wins.

‘Absolutely iconic place’

“That he was in the top-30 in singles, apart from all the doubles highs later, puts him in an absolutely iconic place,” said reputed coach Nandan Bal The Hindu last year when Sania first announced her intention to retire.

“More than anything, she’s a player who plays better as the match gets closer and tighter. I mean, she’s ready to face the world, a girl who’s not afraid of anything.”

In mid-2012, persistent wrist injuries forced her to switch to doubles. But he continued, inventing newer ways to excel. Quick reflexes, magic hands and quick anticipation are prerequisites in elite doubles, and winning streaks are as difficult as a house of cards.

However, he spent 91 weeks as World No. 1, won six Grand Slam titles (three in doubles and three in mixed doubles) to go along with six runner-up finishes, including at the 2023 Australian Open, his last Major appearance, three. whole year after her return from childbirth.

Long life

If her 43 WTA doubles titles spread over a 17-and-a-half-year (2004-21) spell of longevity, the back-to-back WTA Finals crowns (2014 and 2015) are evidence of the stratospheric level of tennis she can play. reach

“When we chose to play tennis professionally, many people asked our parents what they were doing and said we can’t make careers,” recalls Ankita Bhambri, Sania’s peer, teammate and former coach at India’s Billie Jean King Cup team.

“Now people are willing to take that risk [because of Sania]. They don’t hold back just because of women. There was motherhood and that was a huge inspiration. He really showed everyone the way.”

Alok Kumar

Alok Kumar is Content Writer for Sports section on Contact: [email protected]

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