Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 June 2019

In partnering with Martina Hingis, Sania Mirza has again become a golden girl

Dileep Premachandran writes that Sania Mirza, early in her career a media darling, has come full circle in becoming a dominant doubles player.
Sania Mirza of India looks on during the doubles final match with Martina Hingis at the Wuhan Open in China in October. Zhong Zhi / Getty Images / October 3, 2015
Sania Mirza of India looks on during the doubles final match with Martina Hingis at the Wuhan Open in China in October. Zhong Zhi / Getty Images / October 3, 2015

For a brief while after she turned professional in 2003, Sania Mirza was a media darling.

In 2005, she reached the third round of the Australian Open and the round of 16 at the US Open. In 2007, she reached a career-high No 27 in the rankings.

By then, the controversies had started to obscure on-court achievements. Conservative clerics focused on her attire, while there was also a media furore over a photograph that appeared to show her with her feet raised in the direction of the Indian flag.

But none of that compared to the headlines that accompanied her marriage to Shoaib Malik, the Pakistani cricketer.

They have been a couple for six years now, and Mirza, who turns 30 later this year, has once again been turning heads for all the right reasons. It has stemmed from a partnership that the Indian media has labelled ‘Santina’.

Martina Hingis won the last of her five grand slam singles titles in Australia in 1999, and retired for the first time at the age of 22.

There have been further retirements and suspensions since, but in her early 30s, she has thrived as a doubles specialist.

She and Mirza are on an incredible run at present, having followed up Wimbledon and US Open victories last year with success in Australia in 2016.

Victory in Paris would give them possession of all four major trophies, and such has been their form in recent times that a calendar grand slam cannot be ruled out.

They lost in the quarter-finals in Paris last year, to Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova.

But if they can master the red clay at Roland Garros – Hingis won the women’s doubles there in 1998 and 2000 – Mirza will once again be the cynosure of capricious media eyes.

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Updated: May 7, 2016 04:00 AM

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