SanTina: With Three Grand Slams, is Martina Sania's Best Doubles Partner?

It was the end of 2014 and Sania Mirza couldn\'t have been happier. She paired up with Brazilian Bruno Soares to lift the US Open mixed doubles title.

Published: 29th January 2016 09:10 PM  |   Last Updated: 29th January 2016 09:37 PM   |  A+A-

Santina-AP

Martina Hingis, left, of Switzerland and Sania Mirza of India hold their trophy aloft after defeating Czech Republic’s Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka in the women's doubles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia,

It was the end of 2014 and Sania Mirza couldn't have been happier. She had paired up with Brazilian Bruno Soares to lift the US Open mixed doubles title.

Sania-CaraBlack1AP.jpg

A women's doubles crown at a Major had continued to elude her but she followed up that success at Flushing Meadows with a year-end title with Zimbabwean Cara Black. That was before Black dropped the bomb. She was done and quitting the sport for good.

Sania then partnered Hsieh Su-Wei with some degree of success in the beginning of 2015 but both players were stuck in an unhappy place. The Taiwan girl is a fine doubles player but she wanted Sania to play on the back hand side and the Hyderabadi wasn't willing because it would make her very uncomfortable. It was then she chanced upon a potential relationship with Swiss Martina Hingis, who herself was looking to move on from Italian Flavia Pennetta. That's when both of them got together in Dubai (February 2015). They even practiced together but 'it was a total mess' according to Sania. It was terrible and even otherwise the Indian advanced to the final and Hingis thought that move was officially dead even before it began.

But Sania decided to pair up with Hingis and ended up winning the next three tournaments – Indian Wells, Miami and Charleston. Even then, not many were talking it up as a record-breaking doubles pair. The smart money was on them being found out by the chasing pack.

They won one of the next four before coming to Wimbledon and it was SW19 that their partnership began to blossom.

SanTina, as the team have come to be known, have frequently used 'chemistry' as one of their biggest strengths. And it was in Wimbledon where the world first saw it.

Forgive the Harry Potter reference but together they make one Master of Death. Hingis' deft net work and timing, coupled with Saina's lethal forehand game make them unbeatable. In the final, they were almost beaten. Almost. "We have always been able to find solutions," is something both of them have said in the past and it wasn't a cliche. It was, as the guardian recorded, 'a match the No 1 seeds rarely looked like winning'. 5-3 and serving for the Championships, Ekaterina Makarova was broken. And SanTina did not need a second invitation.

And they haven't looked back since that August day under the early July floodlights. The US Open, year-ender and this year's Australian Open were pocketed with effortless ease. Their game bordered on callousness and was error-prone. The Czech pair of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka too looked clumsy. With Olympics around the corner, Sania will hope her form doesn't dip especially after bagging the prestigious Padma Bhushan.

It's amazing to think that the pair has only lost twice in the last seven months (Toronto and Cincinnati) and questions about their greatness have quickly followed. Going by sheer numbers (their winning streak is at 36 matches) they still have a way to go to match Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver who went unbeaten for 109 matches.

But it's tricky to compare numbers between different eras and a non-calendar Grand Slam (these two will hold all four Slams if they win the French Open) in itself will be a worthy achievement. Will they be able to do it? They are most definitely the front runners but this being an Olympic year, do not discount the Williams', Serena and Venus, joining forces.

If they best that contest...

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