Worn down Sania Mirza to retire after 2022 season

Sania Mirza's legacy is not just the six Slams she won and the world ranking highs she achieved, it is the inspiration she gave to little girls in India that made them pick tennis as a career choice.

Published: 20th January 2022 12:41 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th January 2022 12:41 AM   |  A+A-

Indian tennis star Sania Mirza

Indian tennis star Sania Mirza (Photo | AP)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: When Nandan Bal first saw Sania Mirza play, he knew straight away that the kid was going to be special. But not because of her service or her power from the baseline.

"The one thing that caught my eyes was her general attitude. She knew how to fight. She had that mental toughness to fight past obstacles even at that age. She showcased that guts and wasn't scared or afraid. She was never ever timid on court."

Since playing her first professional event, an ITF $10000 meet at New Delhi in September 2001, that attitude of hers has been front and centre. She's used it to maximum effect.

Winning six Majors, becoming World No 1 and partnering Martina Hingis in what will go down as one of the most decorated women's doubles partnerships in recent times... when she walks into the sunset, she can look back on a job well done.

On Wednesday, the 35-year-old announced that 2022 would be her final season on tour.

Forget the titles (43 of them), forget the Slam wins (six of those) and forget the world ranking (No 1 in doubles and a high of 27 in singles, a best for Indian tennis in the 21st century). Her legacy goes beyond numbers and rankings and titles.

Bal, who has known her for more than 20 years, says her legacy is just inspiring girls to pick tennis as a career option. "The number of kids who took to the sport after watching her play the sport... I don't think that can be quantified. That, I will say, is going to be her legacy."

When Bal talks about Sania's attitude, what he means is the fight she shows, especially when matches got close. "She never had a big serve, she also had technical flaws but she more than made up for that mentally. Whenever matches got close, she would take her level up a notch. When it's, say, 6-6 in the third set, you can find her hitting the chalk, she would be extremely clutch those times. That's what kind of defined her."

In the post-match press conference following their (Sania and Nadiia Kichenok) first-round loss to Kaja Juvan and Tamara Zidansek, Sania opened up on why she had taken the decision.

"There's a bunch for reasons," she said. "It's not as simple as 'okay, I'm not going to play'. I do feel my recovery is taking longer, I do feel, considering my son is three, I'm putting him at risk by travelling so much with him. My body is wearing down. My knee was really hurting today... I'm not saying that's the reason we lost but I do think that it is taking time to recover as I'm getting older."

She also mentioned that she wasn't enjoying the grind anymore. "I am not sure I'm enjoying it anymore. I am enjoying it enough to play this season. I've worked very hard to come back, get fit, lose weight and try to set a good example for mothers, new mothers to follow their dreams as much as they can. Beyond this season, I don't feel my body doing it. It's beat."

Can she find that magic touch that she was so blessed with when she became No 1? Whether she does or not, the next nine months or so will be a celebration of a career that saw the highest of highs.

Sania's career in numbers

Career-high doubles ranking: 1

Career-high singles ranking: 27

Titles: 43

Prize money: $7.03 mn

Doubles W/L: 511/230

Year-end wins: 2 (2014, 2015)

Current ranking: 68

Grand Slam wins: 6 (women's doubles 3, mixed doubles 3)

Women's doubles: Australian Open (2016, Martina Hingis), Wimbledon and US Open (2015), all with Martina Hingis

Mixed doubles: Australian Open (2009, Mahesh Bhupathi), French Open (2012, Bhupathi), US Open (2014, Bruno Soares)

Runners-up: 5

Other snapshots

First professional tournament ITF $10,000, Delhi, September 2001

First doubles title: 2004, Hyderabad

WTA Newcomer of the season: 2005

Best singles Slam performance: 3rd Round, Australian Open 2008


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