In a country where female sportstars don’t get their due, this piece in scroll celebrates the storied career Sania Mirza, the ace tennis player from Hyderabad, who retired last month. In an international tennis career spanning two decades, Mirza achieved more success than any other Indian tennis player this century. Her Wikipedia page says: “A former doubles world No. 1, she won six major titles – three in women’s doubles and three in mixed doubles. From 2003 until her retirement from singles in 2013, she was ranked by the Women’s Tennis Association as the Indian No. 1 in singles….
She is one of only two Indian women to win a WTA Tour title, and the only one to be ranked within the top 100 in singles. Mirza is the third Indian woman in the Open era (after Nirupama Mankad and Nirupama Sanjeev), and the second in singles (after Sanjeev) to contest and win a match at a major, and the first to advance past the second round. With 43 titles, Mirza has won more WTA doubles titles on the tour than any other active player. In addition, she has spent 91 weeks as the world No. 1 in doubles. In 2005, Mirza was crowned the Newcomer of the Year by the WTA, and in 2015 she and Martina Hingis were the Doubles Team of the Year, going on to earn a 44-match winning streak, one of the longest in history. Mirza has also won a total of 14 medals (including six golds) at three major multi-sport events, namely the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games and the Afro-Asian Games….She was named in Time magazine’s 2016 list of the 100 most influential people in the world.” (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
More important than her success in tennis perhaps is the role Mirza has played in changing the face of Indian tennis. Nirupama Sanjeev (née Vaidyanathan), the first Indian woman in the Open era to win a main draw singles match at a Grand Slam, says: “We don’t have a history and so for younger girls and girls who were starting to play tennis, she changed the whole face of Indian tennis in terms of what the girls were even allowed to dream…She broadened belief in Indian women in the sense that there are a lot more people playing tennis. There’s no question about it…”
Somdev Devvarman, a former India No 1 in men’s singles who reached a career high of 62 and is a two-time ATP tour finalist says that Mirza brought to Indian tennis a degree of self-confidence and belief that hadn’t been seen before in this country: “Devvarman recollected this aspect in an anecdote:
“We were learning a lot but we had no business winning tournaments or being in the competitive play of it at least at that age. And the one thing that stood out with her is she always believed that she was there to win these tournaments. I mean, you could see that we knew that they were better players, we knew that the other players had different kinds of experiences but that self belief in her was always much more prevalent than it was in the rest of us.
“The self confidence, the ability to back herself, even when she failed and to come back and say, ‘I can do this again’… It was stunning the way it happened, because, one after the other, she’s in the quarterfinals of the junior doubles. Then, she’s in the semifinals. And suddenly she’s won it… she’s won the tournament! And before you know it, we’re talking about what kind of gown she’s going to be wearing at the ball where Roger Federer’s there, Serena’s there, the best players in the history of the sport are there and Sania’s like, ‘Yeah, I belong in that room.’”
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