Incredible Sania Mirza: her fantastic story from the first steps to the birth of a child
Not everyone knows that tennis is one of the most popular sports in India. Along with cricket and football, various tennis tournaments are quite often held in the country. Indian players have repeatedly pleased their fans with glorious performances, including at Grand Slam tournaments.
Those who closely watch the news in tennis’ world probably once heard names such as Leander Paes, Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Rohan Bopanna… But have you heard of an incredible Indian tennis player named Sania Mirza? If not, then you have her full biography, following the fantastic path that she had to go both alone and with the help of her family, friends and, of course, a coach.
Childhood and the first success in tennis
Sania was born into a family of Muslim-Indians. By the way, her father Imran was her leading coach for a long time.
Six-year-old Sania, raised in a Muslim religious family, the local club coach, didn’t even want to let her on the court, because she was too small and couldn’t hold a racket. And six months later, he called her parents and said he had never seen the child progress so quickly. By the age of 18, Mirza played in the adult tour, won her first WTA tournament title and reached the fourth round of the US Open. In America, she made a splash among fans and journalists, appearing at a press conference in a T-shirt with the inscription “I’m cute? No shit”. It’s not surprising that an informal brunette by tennis standards with a typically Indian appearance and forms attracted both fans and sponsors’ attention.
When 18-year-old Sania won the tournament in Hyderabad, she congratulated the Indian National Congress’s head, Sonia Gandhi. From that moment, the cult of Mirza began in India. The tennis player began to receive national awards for her contribution to the development of Indian sports. It’s also interesting that participation in television programs is common for Sania, and even Bollywood waits for Sanya to shine with acting talent. True, for a long time the tennis player refused to appear on the movie screen.
The first steps
Sanya Mirza has been playing tennis since the age of six. She played her first tournament of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) in 2001, and the very next year she won three ITF tournaments in singles and one in doubles.
She repeated this result in 2003. In the same year, she won the Wimbledon doubles tournament among girls, playing with Alice Kleybanova. This year was her first in the rank of professional: she first played in the main draw of the WTA tournament in Hyderabad.
In 2004, the same tournament was the first won in her doubles career with Liesel Huber. Besides, she won six ITF tournaments in singles and two in doubles, and as a result was awarded the Indian sports prize “Arjuna” for achievements in tennis for 500 thousand rupees, becoming the second tennis player in India to receive this award and the only one who received it after 2000. It should be noted that mostly male tennis players became laureates.
The following year, also in Hyderabad, she won her first WTA singles title. After the victory in Hyderabad, Mirza first entered the first hundred of the world ranking. In August of the same year, after wins over two tennis players from the top ten, namely over Svetlana Kuznetsova in February and Nadezhda Petrova in August, she entered the top 50. At the end of 2005, she showed her best result in Grand Slam singles tournaments, reaching the 1/8 finals at the US Open. Mirza thus in one year became the first Indian woman to win the WTA tournament, the first Indian woman in the top 50 and the first Indian woman to reach the fourth round of the Grand Slam tournament. At the end of the 2005 season, she was awarded the WTA Best Newcomer Award.
In 2006, at the Asian Games in Doha, Mirza won silver in singles, losing only in the final to Zheng Jie, and gold in mixed doubles with Mahesh Bhupati. In 2006, she excelled at two WTA doubles tournaments and won her third victory over a top ten tennis player, namely Martina Hingis at the Tashkent Open.
Mirza missed part of the 2007 season due to a knee injury and subsequent surgery. Her return was convincing: since May, she won four tournaments in doubles, reached the finals of the second category tournament in Stanford, where she lost to Anna Chakvetadze and climbed from 70th place in the ranking to a record 31st, as well as to 18th in the ranking of doubles players. However, the end of the season again passed with injuries, which didn’t allow her to develop success.
At the beginning of 2008, she reached the final of the Grand Slam tournament for the first time: together with Bhupati, they lost in the Australian Open final to the international team Sun-Zimonjic. However, that season injuries haunt her: from April to August she spent a little more than a dozen singles matches and the same amount in doubles, and the rest of the season didn’t perform at all. Her last tournament of the season was the 2008 Summer Olympics, where she lost in singles in the first round to Czech Iveta Benesova. The Indian couple Mirza-Rao also lost to the first-seeded Kuznetsova and Safina.
The beginning of 2009 was marked by the next return of Mirza to the centre of attention. With Bhupati, they won the mixed at the Australian Open, and thereby she became the first Indian woman who won a Grand Slam tournament. Then she reached the finals of the Pattaya tournament and won the Ponte Vedra Beach tournament in pairs. In July, she won the next ITF tournament. Since the beginning of the season, she had risen from 126th position in the ranking to 74th. After reaching the WTA tournament semifinals in Osaka, she finished the season in 54th place in the ranking among singles players. In doubles, she gained a foothold among the fifty strongest.
In March 2010, Mirza withdrew from the premier tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami due to a right-hand injury. She missed all of April and May, including the French Open, and returned only in June to the Wimbledon tournament, where she reached the second round where she lost to Caroline Wozniacki. Besides the wedding and unsuccessful performances, the injury brought her out of the strongest list in singles and doubles.
Appearances for the Indian national team
During her appearances for India in the Federation Cup, Sania Mirza spent 25 matches. On her account 12 victories and five defeats in singles, four victories, and four defeats in doubles. With the participation of Sania, the team several times entered the first group of the Asia/Oceania zone.
Mirza’s unbelievable stories
Serious problems up to arrest? Tennis along with religion
Not everyone knows that Mirza is famous not only in India but in general in Asia. For example, the Chinese media included her in 10 prominent tennis beauties along with Kournikova, Sabatini and Sharapova.
However, attempts to combine cosmopolitan sports activities such as tennis with a Muslim lifestyle are often fraught with trouble. Sports brought Mirza not only glory but also a lot of problems. In 2005, several orthodox Muslim clergies issued a fatwa about short skirts and open tops of a young Indian woman. Orthodoxes demanded that Sania either stop playing tennis or change clothes and threaten riots during her matches.
After that, the tennis player was allocated bodyguards, but the girl was not afraid and went to Wimbledon in a T-shirt with the inscription “Exemplary girls rarely make history,” which became a symbol of independence for many Indian women.
Once at a press conference, Sania spoke out in defence of safe sexual life. After that, even in her native Hyderabad, religious fanatics began to burn her effigies. As a result, Mirza had to make excuses and clarify that she didn’t mean sexual life before marriage.
And soon the girl almost went to prison. In 2007, she took part in an advertising shoot on the territory of one of the Muslim shrines – the Mecca Mosque. Believers complained to the police, saying that Sania insulted their feelings. A criminal case was opened against the tennis player and the agency that organized the shooting. Mirza had to apologize to all Muslims for a long time and in all possible forms.
Legs against the flag – an offence?
The next incident again threatened Mirza with imprisonment and became the last straw, after which Sania announced she would no longer take part in tournaments in India. During one of the press conferences, the girl broke up and put her barefoot legs on a bench in dangerous proximity to the Indian flag. As soon as the photos appeared in the press, Mirza was accused of insulting the national flag. The case was resolved without trial only because Sania representatives found pictures taken at a different angle, where it was clear that the girl’s legs were actually turned in the other direction.
Questions about Mirza’s marriage arose quite a long time ago because decent Indian girls get married early. At one time, the name of Sania was associated with the name of Shahid Kapoor, a famous Bollywood actor. But Sania’s first chosen one was her childhood friend and the son of a wealthy businessman Sohrab Mirza. No, he’s not a relative, as you’ve thought, just a namesake. In July 2009, a beautiful engagement took place in the traditional style. In Sania, there was a national wedding outfit worth 20 million rupees, and in Sohrab – a costume donated by the bride from Armani. On the eve of the engagement, the police had to arrest two students, hopelessly in love with Sania, who tried to break into Mirza’s house and dissuade her from marriage.
Young people didn’t set a wedding day at that time, since the groom had to finish his education and the bride dreamed of continuing her tennis career. However, the relationship didn’t stand the test of time. In January, the engagement was terminated due to personal incompatibility. And just two months later, a new arrangement took place, and this time Sania chose a person who could understand the lifestyle of a professional athlete. By the way, the tennis player’s relationship with the former captain of the Pakistan cricket team Shoaib Malik continues, and he was them who caused the separation from the first groom.
For Malik, this is also not the first attempt to enter into an honest relationship – a few years ago, he broke off his engagement to another Muslim girl from Hyderabad under strange circumstances. Then Shoyab claimed that before the meeting, he saw a potential bride only in a photo, and with a personal acquaintance, it turned out to be a completely different person. The parents of the abandoned bride threatened him with prosecution for deception.
Therefore, this time the tennis player and her fiance decided not to pull with the marriage and appointed it for April 2010, which did take place.
However, everything is not quite as simple as it would like. Relations between the two countries are tense, so the news of an Indian and a Pakistani wedding was mixed. In 2014, Mirza was appointed ambassador of the newly educated Indian state of Telangana, and a discussion unfolded in society whether the Pakistani wife is worthy of such a high honour. Local authorities managed to convince people that Mirza is the pride of the nation.
A little later, great news appeared on the network – Sania Mirza and her fiance were expecting a child. Now the couple lives in love and harmony, raising their first son.
Of course, there is something to be proud of Hindus. Sania became the most successful tennis player in the history of the country. In October 2005, she was on the list of “50 Heroes of Asia” according to Time magazine, and in 2016 – on the 100 most influential people list worldwide according to the same publication. In 2010, The Economic Times named Sanya one of the 33 women that India is proud of. In 2014, she became the UN ambassador to Asia to fight for women’s empowerment in India.
Despite the ambiguous attitude towards the tennis player in her native country, we all can say that this girl is a legend in the tennis’ world and India’s pride. As usual, the path of Sania was not easy, but this is its charm. Only by overcoming those obstacles that didn’t stop appearing in front of the athlete, she could become the incredible person that she is to this day.