Games & medals
Rio de Janeiro 2016
Sania MIRZA biography
It's not hard to see why Sania Mirza is the finest women's tennis player India has produced. In January 2020, when she returned to the court after her maternity break, she had neither lost any of her zest for the sport nor, and more importantly for her game, that formidable power in her forehand.
It was the same Sania Mirza who had been a six-time grand slam champion, a former world no. 1 in doubles and a three-time Olympian.
With 42 WTA doubles titles to her name, the Rio 2016 Olympics semi-finalist is currently the most successful active doubles participant. And even though she’s the only Indian to have broken into the top 30 of the WTA singles rankings, Sania Mirza has enjoyed the bulk of her success in doubles.
Her partnership with Martina Hingis, in particular, was very fruitful. A pumped-up Sania and Hingis high-fiving each other was a sight not only for Swiss and Indian fans but for tennis fans across the world. The duo, in new phases of their respective careers, fed off each others’ energies and enjoyed their tennis without inhibitions.
Hingis/Mirza, as the scoreboard would say, laid their hands on three grand slam titles and two WTA finals titles between 2015 and 2016 besides stringing together a record 41-match winning streak as a pair.
Born in Mumbai, Sania Mirza moved to Hyderabad at a very young age and began playing tennis when she turned six before her father started coaching her himself as equipment and travel costs were steep to afford.
Her talent was undeniable. Sania Mirza’s big break came in 2002 as a teenager when Leander Paes partnered her in mixed doubles at the Asian Games en route to clinching a bronze medal.
Soon, she became the first Indian woman to reach the fourth round of a grand slam tournament at the US Open in 2005 and then became the first Indian woman to win a WTA title the same year.
Fast forward 2009 when she won her first Grand Slam, the Australian Open mixed doubles title, with Mahesh Bhupathi. The pair added a second title at the 2012 French Open and then she teamed up with Brazilian Bruno Soares to bag the 2014 US Open.
Meanwhile, she soared to No. 1 in the doubles world rankings in 2015 with her performances. That year, continuing to play alongside Martina Hingis, Sania Mirza won her maiden women’s double Grand Slam at Wimbledon. The pair continued their form to claim the US Open two months later and the 2016 Australian Open.
And having made her Olympic debut at Beijing 2008, it was at Rio 2016 that Sania Mirza came the closest to winning a medal in the mixed doubles event along with Rohan Bopanna.
Seeded fourth for the competition in Rio, the Indian duo would battle past some stiff challenges that included the likes of the British pair Heather Watson and Andy Murray. However, they would fall short in the semi-finals, against Americans Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram in a closely contested match.
With a bronze medal still up for grabs, the Indian pair would find it hard to get going against Lucie Hradecká and Radek Štěpánek, going down in straight sets. It was a defeat that Mirza said ranked with the most disappointing of her life.
Sania Mirza got married to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik in 2010, and the couple became parents of son Izhaan Mirza Malik in 2018.
As a result, she had taken a maternity break from tennis but returned to court in style, winning the doubles title at the 2020 Hobart International and then led India to their first-ever Fed Cup playoffs.
“One of the reasons to make this comeback was to tell women that you can follow your dreams,” she said. “Just because you have a baby, you don’t have to sacrifice your entire life. You can still be a good mother [while working].”
Bestowed with prestigious titles such as the Padma Bhushan and the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Sania Mirza’s achievements have helped cultivate a wide and ever-growing interest in tennis in India.