Sania Mirza and Wimbledon: Where it all started for the tennis ace
For Sania Mirza, Wimbledon has always been a special event.
The oldest of the four Grand Slam events, the Wimbledon Championships is often regarded as the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world and the hallowed grass of the All England Club has been the scene for some of the biggest landmarks of Sania Mirza’s tennis career.
It was at Wimbledon that Sania Mirza first marked her arrival on the global stage and later went on to establish herself as a true tennis superstar.
“The Wimbledon is where it all started for me. That’s where I understood the meaning of success for the first time.”
Here, we take a look back at Sania Mirza’s Wimbledon journey throughout the years.
Girls’ doubles Wimbledon title with Alisa Kleybanova
Even before Sania Mirza began making waves in the senior circuit, she announced her arrival with a victory in the 2003 Wimbledon girls’ doubles.
Partnering Russian player Alisa Kleybanova, Sania Mirza reached the final, becoming the first Indian to reach that stage since Rita Dabur made it to the singles event title-decider in 1952.
While Rita Dabur could only finish runners-up, Sania Mirza went one better.
In the final, the Indo-Russian duo lost the first set against Czech Republic’s Katerina Bohmova and Netherlands’ Michaella Krajicek 6-2 but roared back to win 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Thus, Sania Mirza became the first Indian girl to win a Grand Slam of any sort.
Not only did the victory set the then 16-year-old up for an illustrious tennis career ahead of her, but also marked a tectonic shift in the perception of women’s tennis in India.
"When I picked up a tennis racquet, a girl wanting to play Wimbledon was unheard of. When I did win junior Wimbledon with Alisa Kleybanova in 2003, people apologised and said 'we're extremely sorry that we ever said anything'.”
The belief was only vindicated over the next decade and a half as Sania Mirza went on to win six Grand Slam titles in the senior circuit.
Sania Mirza’s Wimbledon doubles career
Primarily a doubles specialist, Sania Mirza boasts of an enviable record of 27 wins (barring one bye) and 12 losses at Wimbledon’s ladies doubles events.
As top seed, she also won the Wimbledon 2015 title with Martina Hingis, making her the first Indian woman to clinch a doubles Grand Slam.
In what was Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis’ first Grand Slam title as partners, the Indo-Swiss duo cruised to the final without dropping a set.
In the decider, the two faced tough competition from the Russian duo of Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina but notched up a hard-fought 5-7, 7-6, 7-5 win.
The Sania-Hingis team would go on to become three-time Grand Slam doubles champions over the next few months, but for Sania Mirza, the 2015 ladies doubles title at Wimbledon still holds a special place.
“This is where it all started for me in 2003. That was the beginning of the big things for me. Any tennis player wants to play at the centre court, but very few get to win there. This is the biggest stage of tennis. It’s a dream come true for me.”
Besides her famous title-winning spree, Sania Mirza reached the Wimbledon doubles semi-finals with Elena Vesnina in 2011 and the quarter-finals in 2008 and 2016.
She made her Wimbledon doubles debut in 2005, partnering Russian player Anna Chakvetadze but lost her first match against Ukraine’s Tatiana Perebiynis and Russia’s Alina Jidkova 6-2, 6-1.
Sania Mirza’s Wimbledon singles career
In singles, Sania Mirza won four and lost seven of her 11 matches at Wimbledon.
She marked her Wimbledon debut with a singles match against Japan’s Akiko Morigami. In her maiden outing, the then 18-year-old Indian put up an inspired performance against a much more experienced campaigner to secure a hard-fought 6-3, 3-6, 8-6 victory.
"I know I cannot win every match I play but I am happy with the way I played. I played a bit patchy at times and it could have gone either way. In the end, I am glad I came through,” she said after the match.
She, however, was knocked out in the next round by Russian star Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Till 2011, Sania Mirza was a regular in the ladies singles event in Wimbledon and reached the second round on four occasions.
Sania Mirza’s Wimbledon mixed-doubles career
At Wimbledon mixed-doubles events, Sania Mirza has 13 wins and 12 losses.
In her debut campaign in 2005, she partnered Sweden’s Simon Aspelin and won her first mixed-doubles Wimbledon match against the Argentinian-Australian duo of Gaston Eltis and Lisa McShea.
The duo, however, fell to Leos Friedl and Janette Husarova in the next round.
Sania Mirza did one better in 2006, reaching the third round with Czech partner Pavel Vizner.
In 2007, she teamed up with Indian tennis player Mahesh Bhupathi – with whom she would later go on to win the 2009 Australian Open and 2012 French Open mixed doubles titles.
Sania-Bhupathi won the first-round match against David Skoch and Janette Husarova but had to bow out of Wimbledon after a second-round loss to Marcin Matkowski and Cara Black.
However, it was with another Indian partner – Rohan Bopanna – in 2011 that Sania Mirza made her first quarter-final in mixed doubles at Wimbledon.
The Indian pair reached the last eight but finally succumbed to Australia’s Paul Hanley and Chinese Taipei’s Hsieh Su-wei.
Sania Mirza would go on to reach the top eight two more times – in 2013 with Romanian Horia Tecau and in 2015 with Brazilian Bruno Soares. However, she never progressed beyond that stage.