Sania Mirza born 15 November 1986, in Mumbai) is a professional Indian tennis player, well known for her powerful forehand ground strokes. She holds the record for being the highest ranked Indian player for over a decade in between 2003–2013, after which her retirement from the singles competition put Ankita Raina at the top spot. In her career, Mirza has notable wins over Svetlana Kuznetsova, Vera Zvonareva, Marion Bartoli; and former World No. 1s Martina Hingis, Dinara Safina, and Victoria Azarenka. She is the highest ranked female tennis player ever from India, with a career high ranking of 27 in singles and 7 in doubles. She is the first Indian female player to surpass US$1m in career earnings; first Indian to win a WTA Tour title of any kind; and, by winning the 2009 Australian Open – Mixed Doubles Event, became the third Indian, male or female, to win a Grand Slam title (the first two being Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes). Mirza has also won the 2012 French Open – Mixed Doubles Event (her second Grand Slam title). Mirza was named one of the ’50 heroes of Asia’ by Time in October 2005. In March 2010, The Economic Times named Mirza in the list of the “33 women who made India proud”
Early life and tennis career
Sania was born to Imran Mirza, a sports journalist, and his wife Naseema in Mumbai, Maharashtra. She and younger sister Anam were brought up in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh in a [Muslim]] family. She is related to former cricket captains Ghulam Ahmed of India, and Asif Iqbal of Pakistan.
Mirza began playing tennis at the age of six, turning professional in 2003. She was trained by her father. She attended NASR school in Hyderabad and later graduated from St. Mary’s College. Mirza received an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the MGR Educational and Research Institute University in Chennai on 11 December 2008. Her niece, Sonia Baig Mirza, studies there. Mirza is the third Indian woman in the Open Era to feature and win a round at a Grand Slam tournament (the first one being Nirupama Vaidyanathan at the 1998 Australian Open and the second being Shikha Uberoi at the 2004 US Open). She also became the 1st Indian woman to be seeded in a Grand Slam event at the 2006 Australian Open.
Mirza won 10 singles and 13 doubles titles as a junior player. She won the 2003 Wimbledon Championships Girls’ Doubles title, partnering Alisa Kleybanova. She also reached the semifinals of the 2003 French Open Girls’ Doubles, with Sanaa Bhambri, and the quarterfinals of the 2002 US Open Girls’ Doubles, with Isha Lakhani.
2001 – 2003: Success on the ITF circuit
Mirza started to show early success as she made her debut in April 2001 on the ITF Circuit as a 15-year-old. Her highlights of 2001 include a quarterfinals showing in Pune and a semifinal finish in New Delhi. As the 2002 season began, she turned around a season of early losses to winning three straight titles; her first in her hometown Hyderabad and the other two in Manila. In February 2003, Mirza was given a wildcard to play in her first ever WTA tournament, at the AP Tourism Hyderabad Open, in her hometown. She lost the tough first round encounter to Australia’s Evie Dominikovic, 6–2, 1–6, 2–6. The following week, at the Qatar Ladies Open, she fell to Czech Olga Blahotová in the first qualifying round. She had a good result representing India on the Fed Cup, winning three straight matches. She helped India win a bronze medal in the mixed doubles event of the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, partnering Leander Paes. In addition, Mirza picked up 4 gold medals at the 2003 Afro-Asian Games in Hyderabad.
2004 – 2005: First WTA title
At her hometown event, the 2004 AP Tourism Hyderabad Open, Mirza was a wildcard. She put up a good fight against the fourth seed and eventual champion Nicole Pratt in round one, but lost 6–4, 3–6, 2–6. But she won her first WTA doubles title here, partnering Liezel Huber. She also got a wildcard to play at the Grand Prix SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Casablanca, Morocco, but suffered a first round deficit to eventual champion Émilie Loit. Mirza also had a runner-up showing at the Palm Beach Gardens Challenger, where she fell to Sessil Karatantcheva. In addition, Mirza won 6 ITF singles titles in 2004. Going into the 2005 Australian Open, Sania defeated Cindy Watson and Petra Mandula in the first and second rounds, respectively, to reach the third round where she was beaten in straight sets by eventual champion Serena Williams.
In February, Mirza became the first ever Indian woman to win a WTA title, by winning her hometown event, the 2005 AP Tourism Hyderabad Open, defeating ninth seeded Alona Bondarenko in the final, 6–4, 5–7, 6–3. Her good-form continued at the 2005 Dubai Tennis Championships, where in round two she upset 4th seed and reigning US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets, coming back from a 0–4 deficit. After an early loss at 2005 French Open, she defeated Akiko Morigami to reach the second round of 2005 Wimbledon Championships, where she lost to Kuznetsova in a tight three setter. In August, she reached the third round at the Acura Classic, falling to Morigami. Mirza reached her second WTA final at the 2005 Forest Hills Tennis Classic, falling to Lucie Šafářová. Mirza became the first Indian woman to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament at the 2005 US Open, defeating Mashona Washington, Maria Elena Camerin and Marion Bartoli, before losing to top seed Maria Sharapova in the Round of 16. At the Japan Open, Mirza reached the semifinals with wins over Vilmarie Castellvi, Aiko Nakamura and Vera Zvonareva, before being overpowered by Tatiana Golovin. Thanks to a successful 2005 season, Mirza was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year..