Sania Mirza, India’s greatest female tennis player, announced at this year’s Australian Open that 2022 would be her last season on tour. The Australian Open has always held a special place in her career – it was after all the venue for her first Grand Slam appearance, as well as where she won her first Major.
The 35-year-old then played her final match at Melbourne Park on Tuesday, going out in the mixed doubles quarter-final after a first-round loss in the women’s doubles.
From an Indian context, tennis will lose one of its biggest stars. Mirza has virtually all the milestones in women’s tennis for India and was ranked No. 27 in singles and was No. 1 in doubles for a total of 91 weeks. She has won six Grand Slam doubles titles.
With her booming forehand as her primary weapon and an aggressive service return, she played a spirited and eye-catching brand of tennis in her early years. Her attacking winners and angles made her an even bigger threat in doubles, where she had her best results.
As she prepares to hang up her tennis shoes, here is a look back at the main highlights of her career:
Junior Wimbledon title and Asian Games medal at 15
Mirza had shown his immense potential as a junior. She played her first ITF event in 2001, won three singles and one doubles titles in 2002 as well as an Asian Games bronze medal in mixed doubles (with Leander Paes) at just 15 years old. The following year, she played her first WTA main draw in Hyderabad. as a wildcard and won the women’s doubles title at Wimbledon (with Alisa Kleybanova)
In 2004, she won her first WTA doubles title (with Liezel Huber) in Hyderabad.
Breakthrough of the 2005 season
In her first Top 100 season, the 18-year-old made her Grand Slam debut as a wild card at the Australian Open and made the third round (where she lost to Serena Williams), won India’s first WTA singles title (the Hyderabad Open) and broke ground by reaching the fourth round at the US Open, going down to then world No. 1 Maria Sharapova.
All of this means she became the first Indian to be named WTA Newcomer of the Year.
First Grand Slam title
The 2009 Australian Open, with Mahesh Bhupathi. The pair were wildcard entrants and beat Nathalie Dechy and Andy Ram 6-3, 6-1 in the final.
The Australian Open had also been where she reached her first major final, a year before (2008). Back then, she and Bhupathi lost to Sun Tiantian and Nenad Zimonjic 7-6(4), 6-4 in the final.
Magic Santina 2015-16 race
Apart from her pioneering career as India’s top singles player, Mirza will be remembered as one half of one of the most prolific WTA doubles teams of all time. Her singles career was hampered by injury and she switched exclusively to doubles in 2013, where she rose through the ranks to spend 91 weeks as world No.
The most prolific phase of her career came when she played with Switzerland’s Martina Hingis – the pair affectionately known as Santina. In 2015 – his first season as world No. 1 – Santina went 55-7 in 16 events, winning nine titles. The most important of these were the women’s doubles trophies at Wimbledon and the US Open. The 2016 Australian Open made it three Grand Slams in a row.
WTA Doubles Team of the Year in 2015, the pair started the 2016 season with 19 consecutive wins, adding to their previous record of a 41-match winning streak, which was the third-best streak in women’s doubles history. . But later that year, Mirza and Hingis announced their mutual decision to part ways and eventually India’s doubles performance chart dropped.
Later that year, she came close to an Olympic medal in Rio, but finished fourth in mixed doubles (with Rohan Bopanna).
She still had sporadic success with various partners but didn’t have the same consistency and a knee injury then a maternity break saw her take a break from the game in 2018.
Successful return from maternity leave
Mirza returned to the sport after her maternity hiatus in 2020 and won a doubles title in her first tournament (with Nadiia Kichenok) at the Hobart Open. An injury to the Indian, however, ended their run at the Australian Open that year earlier.
One of her career highlights came in March 2020, when she helped India reach their first-ever Fed Cup (now Billie Jean King Cup) qualifiers after the team finished second in the qualifiers. Regional Group I Asia / Oceania. Mirza and Ankita Raina teamed up to finish unbeaten on three crucial decisions. She was playing the tournament after four years, her vital contribution to a young Indian team.
Her last title came in September 2021, when she won her 43rd doubles trophy (in 64 finals) at the Ostrava Open with Shuai Zhang.
She may well add to her trophy cabinet on this farewell tour, but no matter how her 2022 season goes, Sania Mirza is leaving tennis a true superstar.