No. 1 in doubles as Mirza achieves single goal

Sania Mirza meeting the media at her residence in Hyderabad last week. She completed a doubles Grand Slam by partnering Martina Hingis to win Wimbledon.
Sania Mirza meeting the media at her residence in Hyderabad last week. She completed a doubles Grand Slam by partnering Martina Hingis to win Wimbledon.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

In 2010, after yet another major injury setback, all Sania Mirza felt was the crippling pain in her wrist.

The Indian tennis player could not even lift a comb, much less lash out another of her monstrous forehands. So the rackets went straight into the basement.

Tennis was kept out of sight but it was not out of mind. Mirza wrestled with the thought of quitting.

Unable to turn her back on a sport she loves and has played since the age of six, she instead forced herself to sacrifice the singles game.

"It wasn't really a choice that I was making happily," the newly-crowned Wimbledon women's doubles champion told The Straits Times in an interview from her home town of Hyderabad.

But she knew it was necessary.

"I have a medical issue with my joints as well. It was becoming tougher and tougher to work as hard as I needed to be in the elite of singles," she said.

Once ranked as high as No. 27 in 2007, Mirza was then still well within the top 100.

She had claimed her share of scalps, including a 2-0 record against France's Marion Bartoli.

She also won a WTA title in her home town in 2005.

Creditable, but not where she wanted to be.

She said: "I was meant to be (ranked) higher, like I was for most of my career. I had to change my goal, and the goal was to be No. 1 in the world, and win Grand Slams."

Today, the 28-year-old has won a title at every Major - mixed doubles at the Australia Open (2009) and Roland Garros (2012) with Mahesh Bhupathi, the US Open (2014) with Bruno Soares, and Wimbledon with Martina Hingis this month.

She also lifted the doubles title at the prestigious WTA Finals in Singapore last year.

And yes, she is the WTA world No. 1 doubles player.

Getting to this sweet spot, however, was a long and hard road.

She said: "There's a lot of tough moments, not just one or two. I've been playing tennis for 23 years of my life. You go through a lot of battles, (ask) a lot of questions.

"There are times when you don't feel great but you still have to push through. It's not all glamour and money and fame when you're in your struggling days."

But now that the hard choice to focus on doubles has been proven to be the right call, Mirza is reaping the fruits of her labour.

She said of her recent win at Wimbledon with Hingis: "It's a dream come true for any athlete.

"Anyone who picks up a racket wants to play at Wimbledon and we're privileged to play on the biggest stage in the world."

They came back from 2-5 down in the final set to beat Russian duo Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina 5-7, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5.

The win meant qualifying for the Oct 23-Nov 1 WTA Finals at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, where Mirza will defend the title she won last year with Zimbabwe's Cara Black.

After all the success she has had with Swiss partner Hingis so far this year - they won three titles on the trot at Indian Wells, Miami and Charleston - it comes as no surprise that Mirza is eyeing longevity and success on the doubles circuit.

"There's no pressure," she said of the year-end season finale.

"It's always a privilege to be the hunted. We are the best in the world now and, hopefully, I can defend my title."

Mirza does not feel that pain in her wrist now.

There is a racket in her hand and winning is on her mind.

She said: "Very few get to be here. It's been a lot of hard work and sacrifices but it's all worth it in the end."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2015, with the headline 'No. 1 in doubles as Mirza achieves single goal'. Print Edition | Subscribe