She is the single most influential sportsperson of women tennis in India. The girl from Hyderabad has got many laurels for India with her brilliant display of tennis. Along with Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes, Sania has made her mark on the international circuit as one of India’s most grand slam winning tennis player.
Sania Mirza played her first international tournament in 1999 when she represented India at the World Junior Championship at Jakarta. Her big break came in 2002 when Leander Paes decided to take her as his mixed doubles partner at the Asian Games.
The duo went on to claim the bronze medal. The rise has been steady since then. In 2003, Sania who was 16 years then, made India proud by becoming the youngest and first ever Indian to feature in the main draw of the girls’ doubles junior Wimbledon tennis championship and winning the Grand Slam title.
Sania Mirza partnered 13-year-old Russian Alisa Kleybanova and defeated Katerina Bohmova of the Czech Republic and Michaela Krajicek of the Netherlands 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. This victory came after a long haul of 51 years that an Indian girl figured again in the final of a Grand Slam. The last girl to do so was Rita Dabur, who had finished runner-up in the singles event in 1952.
“For a girl to pick up a tennis racquet and to want to be a professional—it was unheard of. People thought it was a joke.”- Sania Mirza
India is a cricket-loving nation, always has been. But for a brief moment in a recent history, everyone spoke about tennis. Indian sportsmen, critics, journalists, school children, and even religious leaders expressed their opinion about tennis. All thanks to one woman – Sania Mirza.
Sania Mirza Information
I was still in school when Sania became a breakout star. We had a one rather small Plasma TV and our P.T. teacher would gather the whole school in a cramped room to watch Sania play. The older girls had heard about someone called Leander Paes, but it mattered to us only for quiz competitions. The younger ones didn’t understand much but the whole school knew her name.
Soon there were little girls with plastic tennis racquets playing on our sports ground. Our principal was planning to convert a small part of the ground into a tennis lawn. Some of us even “settled” for badminton as it was much more difficult to convince our parents to buy a tennis racquet and ball! But everyone played, in some way or another, and everyone knew who Sania Mirza was.
Sania Mirza Family
Sania Mirza was born in Mumbai to a Sunni Muslim family. Her parents moved to Hyderabad when she was an infant. She started playing tennis at the age of 6 at Hyderabad’s Nizam Club. But soon the family could not afford the expense of the required equipment and travel. So her father began coaching her himself.
Mirza has voiced her opinion against domestic violence, sexual assaults, female foeticide and unequal pay on several occasions. In 2005, a group of Islamic clerics issued a fatwa against her, calling her skirts and t-shirts “un-Islamic” and “corrupting.” This did not dishearten her, she continued to fight for what she believed in and her fan base kept growing.
She received an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the MGR Educational and Research Institute University, Chennai in 2008. She is married to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik since 2010.
Sania Mirza Achievements
2003– Sania won the 2003 Wimbledon Championships Girls` Doubles title along with Alisa Kleybanova of Russia.
2004– She was the runner-up at the Asian Tennis Championship.
2005– She became the first Indian woman to reach the 4th round of a Grand Slam tournament at the U.S. Open. Moreover, 2005 turned out to be a great year for her as she reached the third round of the Australian Open. In the same year, she became the first Indian woman to win a WTA singles title.
2006 – At the 2006 Doha Asian Games, Sania won the silver in the women`s singles category and the gold in the mixed doubles with Leander Paes.
2007 – At the 2007 U.S. Open, Sania reached the 3rd round in the singles and reached the quarterfinals of the mixed doubles with Mahesh Bhupathi.
2008 – Sania qualified the third round at the Australian Open. She was also the runner-up in mixed doubles category with the partner, Mahesh Bhupathi.
2009 – Sania bagged her first Grand Slam (mixed doubles) title at the Australian Open with Mahesh Bhupathi. She also reached the Pattaya Women`s Open Tournament final held in Bangkok.
2010 – Won the Guangzhou International Women’s Open held in China.
2011 – She was the runner-up at the French Open women’s doubles with Russia’s Elena Vesnina.
2012 – Won the mixed doubles French Open title with Mahesh Bhupathi.
2013 – Won the Toray Pan Pacific Open (Japan) and China Open doubles titles with Cara Black.
2014 – Won the US Open Mixed Doubles title with Brazilian Bruno Soares and was the runner-up at the Australian Open with Horia Tecău from Romania.
2015 – Won the Wimbledon and French Open women’s mixed doubles title with the current world no. 3, Martina Hingis.
2016 – She was the runner-up at mixed doubles event of the French Open with Croatian Ivan Dodig and she won the women’s doubles title at the Australian Open with Martina Hingis.
2017 – Sania continued her outstanding career by finishing as the runner-up at the Australian Open (mixed doubles) with Ivan Dodig. She also reached the finals of Sydney International and Miami Open with her partner, Barbora Strýcová.
Sania has represented India at the Olympics thrice – Beijing (2008), London (2012) and Rio (2016). She has earned the gold medal for India at the 2006 and 2014 Asian Games, and the 2003 Afro-Asian Games.
Sania has a plethora of awards to her name, most importantly, the Arjuna Award (2004), Padma Shri (2006), Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna (2015) and Padma Bhushan (2016). She was named the New Comer of the Year in 2005 by the Women’s Tennis Association.