Tennis

Stern test awaits Sania Mirza at Hobart International

The Indian tennis ace will be returning to action after a 15-month hiatus. 

By Jay Lokegaonkar ·

Six-time Grand Slam champion Sania Mirza is all set to make her comeback at the 2020 Hobart International in Australia next week.

The 33-year-old was out of action for a little over two years initially due to a knee injury followed by the birth of her son with former Pakistan cricket team captain Shoaib Malik. Sania Mirza will compete in the women’s doubles with Ukraine’s Nadiia Kichenok and alongside American Rajeev Ram in the mixed doubles when the tournament begins on Saturday.

Sania Mirza, who has been training hard for her return to active competition, will not only have to battle a talented field but will also have to deal with ring rust.

She last competed in a match on October 8th, 2017, where she and partner Peng Shuai were beaten by Sania Mirza’s former doubles partner Martina Hingis and Latisha Chan in the semi-final of the China Open.

Mirza finding her motivation

While Sania Mirza is aiming to compete at all four Grand Slam events as well at the Olympics, she initially hadn’t set a date on a potential comeback. In an interview with wtatennis.com, the 33-year-old mother of one revealed that she wasn’t sure that she would ever return to the sport after the birth of her son, Izhaan.

“(A comeback) was at the back of my head but it was not something that I was hell-bent on,” said Sania Mirza.

“I was like, sure, if I do find the inspiration and motivation again to be able to do it, and if I find the right people who can help me. Raising a child takes an army so it’s impossible for any person to do it by themselves. Luckily, I did find that motivation again to get back to playing. Once I decided that (I was going to compete), there was no looking back.”

The perfect test

The Hobart International was a happy hunting ground for Sania Mirza in the early years of her career.

She reached the semi-finals in the singles draw in 2007 and the quarter-finals the following year. She also made it to the quarter-finals in the women’s doubles’ draw alongside 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone.

With Sania Mirza confirming her plans to compete at all major events, the excellent talent pool at the Hobart International will be a good test for the returning India tennis star.

Defending women’s doubles champions the Chang sisters -- Latisha and Hao-Ching -- will be returning to defend their title.

The Chinese will face stiff competition from reigning Australian Open women’s doubles champion Zhang Shuai and her partner, world no. 50, Peng Shuai. The 2008 Australian Open women’s doubles champion Kateryna Bondarenko has also entered the draw alongside Canada’s Sharon Fichman.

Given the line-up, one can definitely hope for some tough tennis in Hobart before the focus shifts to season's first Grand Slam, the Australian Open.