Just before 2015 tennis season, India’s Sania Mirza was in a fix. Her women’s doubles partner Cara Black had decided to curtail her appearances and Sania wasn’t quite sure about who she would pair with. For the year-opening Brisbane International, Sania Mirza and Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-Wei lost in the semifinal and as Sania headed to Sydney for Apia International, she had another partner in USA’s Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Even after Sania/Mattek-Sands won the Sydney title, Sania wouldn’t have had any inkling of the shape of things to come in the rest of the 2015 season. But in a dream-like run, thereafter, Sania ended the year with a meteoric rise winning two Grand Slam Titles at Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows and adding eight more WTA titles against her name. All but one of Sania’s 2015 victories came with Switzerland’s Martina Hingis and the Indian jumped to the no.1 spot in individual doubles rankings.
Sania Mirza’s tennis career began as an 18-year old singles player in 2005. She reached the third-round of 2005 Australian Open before losing to eventual champion Serena Williams. Sania caused a shocking second-round upset at Dubai International by defeating Russia’s 4th seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian, however, extracted her revenge by defeating Sania in second round of 2005 Wimbledon. Earlier in February 2005, Sania became the first ever Indian woman to win a WTA title, when she defeated Ukraine’s Alona Bondarenko in the final of AP Tourism Classic at Hyderabad. Later that year, Sania reached her second WTA final at 2005 Forest Hills Classic but lost to Czech-woman Lucie Safarova in final. In 2005 US Open, Sania reached the fourth round before losing to Maria Sharapova. The Indian had a great 2005 WTA season that also saw her semifinal entry in Japan Open. She was named as the WTA Newcomer of the Year 2005.
Though Sania was seeded no.32 in 2006 Australian Open, she lost in the first round. Overall, 2006 was not as good for Sania as 2005 had been; although she reached the semifinals of Sunfeast Open before losing to Martina Hingis. In contrast, 2007 proved to be a better year as Sania reached semifinal at Hobart, second-round at Australian Open, semifinals in Pattaya and quarterfinals at Bangalore Open. In 2007, Sania broke into world’s top 30 singles players and also improved as a doubles player by reaching US Open quarterfinals of mixed and women’s doubles with Mahesh Bhupathi and Bethanie Mattek-Sands. In all, Sania won four doubles titles in 2007.
In 2008 Australian Open, 31st seeded Sania lost to Venus Williams in singles third-round but reached mixed doubles final with Mahesh Bhupathi. A wrist injury curtailed Sania’s appearances for most part of 2008. In 2009, while Sania kept playing singles on WTA circuit, she emerged as a prominent doubles player. With Bhupathi, Sania won 2009 Australian Open mixed doubles crown, when the Indians defeated Frenchwoman Nathalie Dechy and Israel’s Andy Ram. Later, Sania also reached singles final of 2009 Pattaya Women’s Open before losing to Russia’s Vera Zvonareva. Fighting injuries throughout 2010, Sania’s singles’ performance took nose-dive but she won doubles title with Edina Gallovits at Guangzhou and finished runner-up in Taipei with Hsieh Su-Wei.
As 2011 season began, Sania slipped to no.141 in singles ranking and needed to win qualification matches in many tournaments. Her performance in doubles, however, showed improvement. With Elena Vesnina, Sania reached quarterfinals of Dubai Tennis Championships and Qatar Ladies Open. Sania/Vesnina won titles in Indian Wells and Family Circles Cup at Charleston. But Sania/Vesnina had their biggest moment in 2011 by finishing runners-up at French Open. They also reached Wimbledon doubles semifinals. As 2012 beckoned, Sania/Vesnina reached semifinals of Auckland’s ASB Classic but lost to Julia Gorges/Flavia Pennetta next. Sania/Vesnina reached 2012 Australian Open semifinals but Kuznetsova/Zvonareva denied them entry to the final. Sania also reached the mixed doubles semifinals with Bhupathi but couldn’t progress further. At Pattaya Open, Sania won her 13th WTA title with Australian Anastasia Rodinova but lost in the first-round of 2012 French Open with Mattek-Sands. However, Sania won a Grand Slam title, when she and Bhupathi won the mixed doubles final at Roland Garros. At 2012 Wimbledon, Sania/Mattek-Sands lost to Williams sisters in the third round.
Sania began well in 2013 by winning Brisbane Open with Mattek-Sands but the pair lost in the first-round of the Australian Open. However, Sania, reached mixed doubles quarterfinals with USA’s Bob Bryan before losing at the next hurdle. Sania/Mattek-Sands won another women’s doubles title, when they won 2013 Dubai Duty-Free Championships but lost early in 2013 French Open and Wimbledon. With China’s Zheng Jie, Sania won her next WTA title at New Haven and entered the semifinal of US Open before losing to Australians Casey Dellacqua/Ashleigh Barty. For the rest of the 2013, Sania combined with Zimbabwe’s Cara Black and won doubles titles at Japan and China Open. Playing with different partners, Sania won 5 WTA titles in 2013.
Sania/Black had a bad start in 2014 as they lost in first round of Sydney’s Apia International but reached 2014 Australian Open quarterfinals before losing to top seeds and eventual champions Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci. Sania also entered mixed doubles final with Romania’s Horia Tecau but lost to Kristina Mladenovic/Daniel Nestor next. Sania/Black continued for most of 2014 but the pair could only win the Portugal Open. They, however, reached the finals of BNP Paribas Open and Porsche Grand Prix, semifinals of Sony Open and quarterfinals of Mutua Madrid, Rome Masters and French Open. Sania/Black also reached 2014 US Open semifinals before losing to Martina Hingis/Flavia Pennetta. The pair recorded their biggest success in 2014 WTA finals, when they beat Hsieh Su-Wei/Peng Shuai 6-0, 6-1 in the most one-sided final ever seen in the end-of-season doubles final. This was the last time Sania played with Black in doubles. Earlier, Sania clinched her third Grand Slam by winning 2014 US Open mixed doubles with Brazil’s Bruno Soares.
Sania began 2015 season as 6th ranked doubles player and had world no.5 Hsieh Su-Wei as her partner. They reached Brisbane Open semifinals but lost to Caroline Garcia/Katarina Srebotnik. Black’s departure created some uncertainty for Sania but she still won Sydney’s Apia International with Bethanie Mattek-Sands. However, Sania/Mattek-Sands lost in second round of 2015 Australian Open. With Hsieh coming back for Qatar Ladies Open, Sania reached the finals but lost to USA’s Raquel Kops-Jones/Abigail Spears. By now, Sania’s doubles world ranking had gone up to no.5 but she was unaware of what lay in store for her in the rest of the 2015 season.
In March 2015, Sania Mirza found a new partner in Swiss legend Martina Hingis. They immediately struck a common cord by winning at Indian Wells and Miami Masters. In both finals, Sania/Hingis defeated Russians Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina. Sania jumped two more places in WTA rankings and by April she was firmly entrenched as world’s top-ranked women’s doubles player, when She and Hingis won their third title together at Charleston’s Family Circle Cup. After three successive title wins, Sania/Hingis lost in the first-round at Porsche Tennis Grand Prix but reached the final of Italian Open, where they were beaten by Timea Babos/Kristina Mladenovic. The pair also lost in French Open quarterfinals and the Aegon International semifinals. Thereafter, however, Sania/Hingis began a golden period together. They won at Wimbledon by beating Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina and reached the finals of Rogers Cup and Cincinnati Masters. After title-game losses in Rogers Cup and Cincinnati, Sania/Hingis added another Grand Slam feather in their caps by winning 2015 US Open. Their undefeated streak continued with victories at Guangzhou Open, Wuhan Open and the China Open. The top-seeded duo went to WTA finals at strong favorites and won all their matches without dropping a set. In the final, they had an easy 6-0, 6-3 victory against Spain’s Garbine Muguruza/Carla Suarez Navarro and it capped a fantastic year for the Indo-Swiss combination. For Sania, it was the second straight win in WTA finals and she ended the year with 10 WTA titles including 2 Grand Slams. Sania/Hingis were also awarded the WTA Doubles Team-of-the-Year.
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