Last Updated: February 22, 2023, 18:53 IST
Sania Mirza (Sania Mirza Instagram)
The 36-year-old has been a source of inspiration for many in Indian tennis with numerous milestones in her illustrious career which encompassed six major titles and multiple broken barriers
Sania Mirza played her last match on 21 February in Dubai in a one-sided thrashing in women’s doubles. Partnering Madison Keys, Mirza lost 4-6, 0-6 to Liudmila Samsonova and Veronika Kudermetova. The walloping is only a minor blip to what had been a storied career.
One of the greatest tennis players to emerge from India or even South Asia, Mirza won six Grand Slams titles including three doubles and three mixed doubles crowns. She also bagged 44 WTA titles during a 20-year career.
Last month at the 2023 Australian Open, she played her last major – finishing runner-up in the mixed doubles competition alongside Rohan Bopanna.
The 36-year-old has been a source of inspiration for many in Indian tennis with numerous milestones and ‘firsts’ to her name. Notably, she holds the record for being the first Indian woman to win a WTA title and a Grand Slam.
Firstpost spoke to Sania Mirza’s peers on what she meant for Indian tennis and the legacy she leaves behind.
Rohan Bopanna: “The way she has inspired so many people around the globe, I think that is truly her legacy. The time when she came to the sport, she got into top-30 in the world. She was the first female player to do so in any sport in the country. And that was something else.
“She really got a lot of people inspired to start tennis and watch tennis. I have a lot of fantastic memories with her. We played mixed doubles at the Nationals in Delhi when she was 14 years old to play Hopman Cup to play a lot of mixed doubles in the Grand Slams, to play the Olympics. It’s been such a fantastic journey.
“We all learn so much from her in the way she conducted herself on and off the court. No matter what the situation was, she was always ready to win, brought that firepower and I think that is what makes her the champion that she is. She she has been through a lot, on and off the court but the way she has handled and managed everything, I mean it’s not been easy at all.
“Amazing credit to her for what she has done for the sport, for people outside the sport as well and you know, I think hats off to her family, everybody who has really made such a big impact for Indian tennis.”
Saketh Myneni: “I’ve known her for like 20 years now. She’s from the same city as I am so like I’ve known her on-court, off-court. She’s had one of the best careers coming out of India, especially a women’s tennis player playing and motivated a lot of players to take up the sport. It’s great to see that and I hope a lot of women were motivated and a lot more players come out from India that way.
“She set the ceiling and for the next generation can see that someone from India can do it also. It’s not just the girls but even guys get motivated to see her playing at this level.
“She was in the top-30 in singles and then a Grand Slam champion in doubles so the barrier has been set. It’s not easy steps to fill in but it’s a big challenge and then hopefully she uses her knowledge to the next generation and coming forward it’ll be a good phase of her life. It’s a new change and I wish her good luck.”
Yuki Bhambri: “She’s an absolute legend of Indian tennis and first hand saw a boom of a lot of kids picking up a tennis racket especially during the time when she won the WTA title in Hyderabad. I think that was a very big deal obviously winning on home soil and she motivated a lot of people. It helped kids take up the sport and follow their dream.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to see her from a very young age when she was competing. She’s been part of the Fed Cup team with my sisters. So I’ve been able to watch up close when she won the gold medal at the Asian Games in Busan alongside Saketh. She actually set the ceiling very high for anyone else to follow and she deserves all the all the accolades.”
Ankita Raina (during Wimbledon in 2021): “She has been an inspiration for me. Growing up I used to watch her, watch her matches at Wimbledon. It’s great to be here with her in the same tournament. I feel honoured.
“We’ve played Fed Cup (now Billie Jean King Cup) matches over the years together. I got time to train with her before the Fed Cup group playoffs (against Latvia). I got to learn a lot, she has so much experience on tour, knows exactly what a player goes through.
I’ve always said that she’s fearless on the court and it doesn’t matter who is on the other side. I saw that the first time I saw her play in the Fed Cup and I still see that. And that’s very motivating.”
Karman Kaur Thandi: “I think sport in India changed with her, when she came into the picture. A lot of girls took up sport, took up tennis. There’s a lot, a lot to learn from her. I am grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to share the court with her.
“She’s shared some experiences that only a player can share with a player. She’s played at that level and when someone like that believes in you, your game, it motivates you to keep going through the right track and keep improving on the things they see as well.
“For me, she has been an incredible sportsperson and a human being. After all that she’s been through, we don’t have to go through it that much. She’s a very strong woman and has a very good character. Her attitude is something I look forward to and learn from – on and off the court.
“Our game styles are also similar in being aggressive, the high risk tennis but believing in it and backing yourself through all those moments. So that is something I’m going to cherish. We will miss her on the tour but I would really love to keep learning from her.”
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