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Sania Mirza: The original torchbearer-Newsonnline.com

Around the time the world was concerned by the fallout of Y2k, the sporting fraternity in Hyderabad was abuzz with excitement. The arrival of new talent is usually greeted with much mirth and cynicism in Indian circles but there was little of that in this case. Instead, the sporting circles were excited about a talented girl who would go on to leave an indelible mark on tennis courts the world over.
Much in the manner of coming, seeing and conquering, Sania Mirza had arrived and also walked into the sunset of her career following a 6-4, 6-0 defeat she and her partner, Madison Keys, suffered to Veronika Kudermetova and Liudmila Samsonova at the Dubai Open on Tuesday.
Thirty years had lapsed in between. Twenty of them on the professional circuit with Sania racking up quite a few firsts and achieving what many can only dream of.


It is never easy to be the first, to find your way in uncharted territory, and come up trumps. There were detractors too. There were remarks about tennis changing her complexion, too. Her parents were also taunted “for wanting to produce another Martina Hingis.”
That Sania acquitted herself very well is a testimony to her grit to succeed against odds. That will, determination or steely resolve to succeed one sees in Hyderabadi sportspersons — ask the Australians and they will recount how they loved to see the back of VVS Laxman. Sania perhaps knew her place in the sun!


Turning professional in 2003 and winning the junior Wimbledon girls’ doubles title was just the beginning of a long career full of twists and turns. Sania traversed a career path that rivaled cricket in her time for popularity and controversy.
Perhaps controversies without reason and before one could even say Alisa Kleybanova (her junior Wimbledon partner). From her attire to bold statements on her T-shirts and her outspokenness, every action and reaction of Sania was under the scanner.


If it mattered, Sania disguised it well. Like on court, where she found her best expression, and as she loved to play her game, she went for broke with a stinging forehand that was the envy of many.
The Hyderabad Open title at Fateh Maidan in February 2005 at the expense of ninth-seeded Alona Bondarenko sparked huge expectations, coming as it did after her exploits in the Australian Open earlier that year, when she had lost to eventual champion Serena Williams in the third round.


Her good run continued as she reached the third round of the Stanford Classic and the final of the Forest Hills Classic to become the first Indian woman to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam (US Open) — where she lost to top seed Maria Sharapova.
At the 2006 Australian Open, Sania became the first Indian female seeded player. The 2007 summer hardcourt season was a standout for the Hyderabadi as she finished eighth in the US Open series standings and reached her career high singles world ranking of No. 27.


Sania also made amends for her runners-up finish in 2008 at the Australian Open mixed doubles final with Mahesh Bhupathi by winning it the next year but the game was taking a toll on her body and pain was constant.
Both her knees went under the scalpel and then her right wrist — not in that order, though. Injuries come with the territory. Like they say, it’s fine to fall down but a crime not to get up, more so in sport, where constant reinvention is the name of the game.

Sania came up trumps there too with different partners. SanTina — Sania and Martina Hingis — proved to be the best. From No. 6 in her doubles ranking in 2015, Sania moved up to No. 3 and in April 2015 became No. 1 by winning the Family Circle Cup with Hingis.
Sania’s first Grand Slam women’s doubles title also came with Hingis when they won the Wimbledon final, coming back from the dead. The US Open and Australian Open titles followed. Their 41-match win streak in 2015-16 is second only to Jana Novotna and Helena Sukova’s 44.


Sania Mirza bids tennis adieu

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But like all good things, the SanTina partnership also ended. Sania had 82 different partners in women’s doubles and 16 in mixed doubles. Tears will be shed copiously, and tributes paid because six Grand Slam titles, 43 doubles titles, three mixed titles, two gold, three silver, three bronze in Asian Games, a silver and bronze in Commonwealth Games and four gold medals in Afro-Asian Games don’t come easy.
Sania’s been there and done that — a sporting and fashion icon who inspired many girls and women along the way. Making a winning return at Hobart International in 2020 post motherhood is a case in point.
There’s been a Sindhu after Saina Nehwal, but there’s been no other like Sania!

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