A fairytale ending was not there but Sania Mirza, who is one of the greatest tennis players ever to come out from India, bows out of international tennis after achieving unprecedented success and setting a high benchmark for the next generation. Sania Mirza played her final match as a professional tennis player at the WTA Dubai Duty Free Championships on February 21. Sania and her American partner Madison Keys lost 4-6, 0-6 to the formidable Russian pair of Vernokia Kudermetova and Liudmila Samsonova in an hour, closing out her storied career at the WTA Dubai event.
Just a month ago, the 36-year-old Indian played her last Grand Slam and ended with a runner-up finish at the Australian Open with compatriot Rohan Bopanna. Now settled in Dubai, Sania would have hoped for a dream closing at her second home but she bumped into a strong Russian pairing that cut short her stay in the final tournament of her tennis career.
A former doubles world no.1 Sania, who turned professional in 2003, walks out of competitive tennis with six Grand Slam titles, including three women’s doubles with Swiss legend Martina Hingis. Sania won two of her three mixed doubles titles with fellow Indian player Mahesh Bhupathi (2009 Australian Open and 2012 French Open). She also won the US Open trophy with Bruno Soares. The Indian icon has 43 international doubles titles under her belt.
Despite a promising start in the opening set, Sania and Keys were broken in the very first game of the second set, which led to a lopsided match that they ultimately lost. Sania conjured up wins against some of the best players of her era, then US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, Martina Hingis, Nadia Petrova, and Flavia Penneta.
Sania confessed that tennis was and always will be a very important part of her life, but it is not her entire life. The worst that can happen is you can lose a match and then come back and try again. So, the fear of losing was not there, said Sania. She further added that not treating the sport as the be-all and end-all gave her the freedom to unleash her aggressive game every time she stepped onto the court.
What made me that aggressive was that I did not have the fear of losing, Sania said, ahead of the match. Sania’s legacy will undoubtedly inspire future generations of Indian athletes to strive for greatness on the global stage.