Sania Mirza: The Queen of India’s Sports World
SaniaMirza (born 15 November 1986, in Mumbai) is a professional Indian tennis player. From 2003 until her retirement from singles in 2013, she was ranked by the Women’s Tennis Association as India’s №1 player, both in singles and doubles. Throughout her career, she has established herself as one of the highest-paid and high-profile athletes in India.
In her career, Mirza has notable wins over Svetlana Kuznetsova, Vera Zvonareva and Marion Bartoli; as well as former World №1sMartina Hingis, DinaraSafina, and Victoria Azarenka. She is the highest ranked female player ever from India, with a career high ranking of 27 in singles and 5 in doubles. She has achieved a number of firsts for her native country, including surpassing US$1 million in career earnings, winning a Pro-level title, and winning three majormixed doubles titles at the 2009 Australian Open, the 2012 French Open and the 2014 US Open; as well as qualifying for (and eventually winning) the WTA Finals in 2014. Mirza is also the third Indian woman in the Open Era to feature and win a round at a Grand Slam tournament. On top, she has won a total of 14 medals (including 6 Gold) at three major multi-sport events, namely the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games and the Afro-Asian Games.
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”. SaniaMirza has been appointed as the UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador for South Asia during the event held to mark the International Day To End Violence Against Women on 25 th November 2014.
- Early life
- Junior years
- Personal life
- Social Contribution
1. Early life
Sania was born in Mumbai (then Bombay) to a builder Imran Mirza and his wife Naseema, who worked in a printing business on 15 November 1986. Shortly after her birth, her family moved to Hyderabad where she and younger sister Anam were raised in a Shi’a Muslim family. She took up tennis at the age of six. She has been coached by her father and also Roger Anderson.
2. Junior years
Mirza began playing tennis at the age of six, turning professional in 2003. She was trained by her father. 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.
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, Philippines.
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 EvieDominikovic, 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 entrant. 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. She won her first WTA doubles title at the same event, partnering Liezel Huber. She then received a wildcard to compete at the Grand Prix SAR La PrincesseLallaMeryem in Casablanca, Morocco, but suffered a first round deficit to eventual champion ÉmilieLoit.
On the ITF Circuit, Mirza had a runner-up showing at the Palm Beach Gardens Challenger, where she fell to SessilKaratantcheva. 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 AlonaBondarenko 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 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 VilmarieCastellvi, 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.
2006–2007: Top 30 breakthrough
Mirza was seeded at the 2006 Australian Open (the first female Indian to be seeded in a grand slam event), only falling to MichaëllaKrajicek. Next she fell to Camille Pin at the Bangalore Open, but won the doubles title partnering Huber. She played at the Dubai Tennis Championships but lost to Martina Hingis. At the Indian Wells Masters, she reached the third round but lost to Elena Dementieva. She also lost in the first round of the 2006 French Open Grand Slam to Anastasia Myskina.
Her next tournament was the DFS Classic, where she defeated AlonaBondarenko and Shenay Perry to reach the third round, where she was overpowered by Meilen Tu. She also reached the quarterfinals of the Cincinnati Masters and the third round of the Acura Classic, falling to Patty Schnyder and Elena Dementieva, respectively. She reached the second round of the 2006 US Open, losing to Francesca Schiavone. In September, she reached the semifinals of the Sunfeast Open, losing to eventual champion and top seed Martina Hingis. She also won the doubles title there partnering Huber. Mirza made the quarterfinals of the Hansol Korea Open (defeating top seed Hingis en route) and the Tashkent Open. In December, Mirza picked up three medals at the Doha Asian Games — Gold, in mixed doubles and Silver in women’s singles and team.
In 2006, Mirza notched up three top ten wins- against Svetlana Kuznetsova, Nadia Petrova and Martina HingisMirza started 2007 strongly, making it to the semifinals of Hobart, the second round of the 2007 Australian Open, semifinals in Pattaya, and the quarterfinals in Bangalore. At the 2007 French Open, Mirza lost the battle against Ana Ivanovic in the second round. She also fell in the second round at the 2007 Wimbledon Championships to Nadia Petrova. Mirza had the best results of her career during the 2007 summer hardcourt season, finishing eighth in the 2007 U.S. Open Series standings and reaching her highest singles ranking of World №27.
She reached the quarterfinals in San Diego, the semifinals at Cincinnati, and made it to the final at Stanford. She also won the doubles event in Cincinnati with ShaharPe’er. At the 2007 US Open, she reached the third round before losing to Anna Chakvetadze for the third time in recent weeks. She fared much better in the doubles, reaching the quarterfinals in mixed with her partner Mahesh Bhupathi and the quarterfinals in the women’s doubles with BethanieMattek, including a win over number two seeds Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur. She won four doubles titles in 2007.
2008–2009: Grand Slam Championship
Mirza reached the quarter-finals at Hobart as №6 seed. She lost to FlaviaPennetta in three sets. She reached the third round at the 2008 Australian Open as №31 seed, where she lost to №8 seed Venus Williams 7–6(0) 6–4, having led 5–3 in the first set. She was runner-up in the Australian Open mixed doubles partnering Mahesh Bhupathi where they lost 7–6(4), 6–4 to Sun Tiantian and NenadZimonjić.
She had to withdraw from the PTT Pattaya Open because of a left abductor strain. She reached round four at Indian Wells as the №21 seed, defeating №9 seed ShaharPe’eren route, but lost to №5 seed Daniela Hantuchová. On Grass, Mirza was crushed in the second round of Birmingham by Marina Erakovic. At 2008 Wimbledon Championships, as the №32 seed, Mirza was defeated by qualifier María José Martínez Sánchez, 6–0, 4–6, 9–7 in round two, having had several match points.
Mirza represented India at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. She was eliminated from singles when she retired in her match against IvetaBenešová because of a right wrist injury. For doubles, she got a walkover through the first round with Sunitha Rao, but lost in the second round to Russia. Throughout 2008, Mirza was plagued by a slew of wrist injuries, requiring her to withdraw from several matches including those of the 2008 French Open and 2008 US Open Grand Slams
Mirza started her year by playing at the doubles event of the Moorilla Hobart International. Partnering Francesca Schiavone, they reached the quarterfinals. At 2009 Australian Open, she won her first round match against Marta Domachowska, but she fell against 10th seed Nadia Petrova in round two. In doubles she lost in first round partnering Vania King. But in mixed doubles Mirza picked up her first Grand Slam title at the 2009 Australian Open. Partnering with Mahesh Bhupathi, they beat Nathalie Dechy&Andy Ram 6–3, 6–1 in the final.
She then entered the Pattaya Women’s Open Tournament in Bangkok where she reached the finals after a string of good performances. She lost the finals to Vera Zvonareva 7–5, 6–1. She made the semis in doubles in the same tournament. Mirza then competed in the BNP Paribas Open where she lost in the second round to FlaviaPennetta. She then participated in the Miami Masters and lost to Mathilde Johansson in the first round. Mirza and her doubles partner Chuang Chia-jung made the semifinals of the doubles event. Mirza lost in the first round of the MPS Group Championships but won the doubles title with Chuang. She also lost in the first round at 2009 French Open, Galina Voskoboeva. On grass, Mirza participated at the 2009 Aegon Classic and reached the semifinals, losing to MagdalénaRybáriková. At 2009 Wimbledon Championships, Mirza defeated Anna-Lena Grönefeld in the first round. She then fell to №28 seed SoranaCîrstea in the second round. She then lost in the second round of the doubles (with Chuang) and mixed doubles (with Mahesh Bhupathi).
Next Mirza went to Lexington to compete in Fifth Third Bank Tennis Championships, where she won the title after a few good wins. Sania’s next two tournaments were in Canada, where she had mixed results. She managed it all the way to the final at the Odlum Brown Vancouver Open where she was beaten by Stéphanie Dubois. But at the Rogers Cup, she fell to Heidi El Tabakh in the second qualifying round.
Playing in the U.S Open, she defeated Olga Govortsova in the first round but was double-bagled by 10th seed FlaviaPennetta. She also lost in the second round of the doubles event (partnering Francesca Schiavone) to ShaharPe’er and Gisela Dulko. Mirza then went to Japan where she qualified for the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo but lost in the first round to Zheng Jie. At Osaka, Mirza won against 5th seed ShaharPe’er and ViktoriyaKutuzova and in the quarterfinal she defeated 2nd seed Marion Bartoli 6–4, 2–0 by retirement. Mirza moved on to the semifinal, where she lost to Francesca Schiavone.
Mirza began her year at the ASB Classic in Auckland. She won her first round match against Stefanie Vögele, but was crushed by 4th seed Francesca Schiavone in the second round. Mirza then suffered two first-round losses at the Moorilla Hobart International and the 2010 Australian Open. In February, Mirza competed in the 2010 PTT Pattaya Open as the 6th seed, but was upset by TatjanaMalek 6–3, 4–6, 3–6. She then played in the Dubai Tennis Championships but suffered a first round defeat to Anabel Medina Garrigues. Mirza was forced to withdraw from the Sony Ericcson Open, the BNP Paribas Open and the Family Circle Cup due to a right wrist injury. This injury also caused her to pull out of the 2010 French Open.
She returned at the 2010 Aegon Classic, where she lost in the second round to TamarineTanasugarn in three sets. Mirza then fell in the qualifying at Eastbourne and also lost in the first round of Wimbledon. Her bad form continued, as she lost in the second round of the Odlum Brown Vancouver Open and qualifying rounds of both the Cincinnati Masters and the Rogers Cup. Mirza won her first round match against Michelle Larcher de Brito at the 2010 US Open, but she went down fighting 20th seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second round.
In September, Mirza competed in the 2010 Guangzhou International Women’s Open where she made her first quarterfinal of the season. She then lost in the first round of the Tashkent Open, the qualifying draw of the BGL Luxembourg Open, and the first round of the OEC Taipei Ladies Open. In doubles, Mirza won in Guangzhou (with Edina Gallovits) and finished as a runner-up in Taipei (with Su-Wei Hsieh). In October, she represented India at the 2010 Commonwealth Games as the 2nd seed. She defeated Brittany Teei (Cook Islands), Marina Erakovic (New Zealand), and Olivia Rogowska (Australia) before losing to Australia’sAnastasia Rodionova in the final. In doubles, she partnered with fellow Indian, RushmiChakravarthi, losing in the semifinals to Australian’sAnastasia Rodionova and Sally Peers. Mirza and Chakravarthi compatriots PoojashreeVenkatesha and Nirupama Sanjeev to win the bronze medal.
In November, she represented India at the 2010 Asian Games. The unseeded Indian defeated Chan Wing-yau in first round. Next she defeated 6th seed Zhang Shuai in straight sets 6–2, 6–2 to enter into quarterfinal. In quarterfinal Mirza won against 2nd seed TamarineTanasugarn 6–2,6–3 to move in semi final, where she went down fighting to 3rd seed AkgulAmanmuradova 7–6(7), 3–6, 4–6 and won Bronze Medal in singles. In Mixed Doubles she partnered with India’s Vishnu Vardhan losing in the finals to Chan Yung-jan and Yang Tsung-hua and won Silver Medal. In December, she went to Dubai to compete at the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge. Coming unseeded, she won the tournament, defeating 6th seed KseniaPervak, top seed Julia Görges& 8th seed Evgeniya Rodinaen route, and 2nd seed BojanaJovanovski in the final.
Ranked at no.141, Mirza kicked-off her year with the ASB Classic in Auckland. She needed one more win to qualify for the tournament, but lost in three sets against Sabine Lisicki. In doubles, she partnered RenataVoráčová of Czech Republic and reached the semifinals, but lost to Katarina Srebotnik and KvětaPeschke. Going into the 2011 Australian Open, Mirza went down fighting to former world no. 1 Justine Henin in a tight three-setter 5–7, 6–3, 6–1 in the first round. She partnerdVoráčová for doubles but lost in the first round also.
She received wildcards to play in the Dubai Tennis Championships and the Qatar Ladies Open. She made the second rounds of both events, falling to Ayumi Morita and JelenaJanković, respectively. She also was the quarterfinalist in doubles at both, with Russian Elena Vesnina. At the Premier Mandatory events in March, Mirza made the second rounds in both. In doubles, she won her first Premier Mandatory title at Indian Wells, with Vesnina, defeating BethanieMattek-Sands and Meghann Shaughnessy.
Mirza participated at the Premier-level Family Circle Cup in Charleston. In singles, she made her first Premier quarterfinal since San Diego in August 2007. In doubles, Mirza won the title with Vesnina: the Indo-Russian duo beat Mattek-Sands and Shaughnessy in the final for the second time this season. Mirza won her 11th WTA Tour Doubles Title and second of the year. Next, she also competed at the 2011 Mutua Madrid Open, losing in the first round against doubles partner Elena Vesnina. In doubles, with Vesnina, she managed to go up to the third round. Mirza took part in the 2011 Sparta Prague Open, but had to retire in her first round match against Aleksandra Krunić due to a back injury. Next she played at the 2011 Internationaux de Strasbourg, but suffered a first round lost Alizé Cornet.
Mirza breezed through the first round of the French Open where she beat Kristina Barrois in straight sets, 6–3, 6–3. Then in Round 2, she lost to 12th seed AgnieszkaRadwańska, 2–6, 4–6. In doubles, Mirza had what was probably the greatest highlight of her career- she was the runner-up with Vesnina to Andrea Hlaváčková and Lucie Hradecká.
Mirza kicked-off her 2012 season ranked 104th at the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand. She lost a tough 6–1, 5–7, 3–6 first qualifying match against Coco Vandeweghe. As for doubles, she partnered Elena Vesnina and made it to the semifinals, losing to Julia Görges and FlaviaPennetta. Her next tournament was in Sydney where she played doubles only alongside Italian Roberta Vinci, but lost in round one.
Going into the Australian Open, Mirza was overpowered by TsvetanaPironkova 4–6, 2–6 in the first round. In doubles, Mirza reached her third Grand Slam semifinal, partnering Vesnina, where they fell to Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva. For the mixed doubles event, Mirza played alongside compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi and reached her 4th Grand Slam semifinal.
Mirza then represented India at the Fed Cup in Shenzhen, China where they were facing Hong Kong. In singles, she defeated Zhang Ling 5–7, 6–0, 6–1. Partnering with Isha Lakhani, the pair beat Chan Wing-yau and Zhang 6–7(7), 6–1, 7–5. With this performance, India advanced to the Fed Cup Asia/Oceania Zone Group I for 2013. Mirza then played at the PTT Pattaya Open where she won her first WTA main draw match since the 2011 French Open — coming from a set down to upset Ayumi Morita (ranked 47 spots higher), 3–6, 6–1, 6–2. In second round she beat Anne Keothavong 6–4, 7–5 to enter in quarter-final, where she lost to Su-Wei Hsieh. In doubles with Australian Anastasia Rodionova she won her 13th WTA title: they defeated the Taiwanese sisters Hao-Ching Chan and Yung-Jan Chan 3–6, 6–1, 10–8
Mirza then went to Doha to play at the Qatar Ladies Open where she had to withdraw from the singles qualifying event, due to playing Pattaya doubles final. She lost in the second round of doubles with Vesnina. Then, in Dubai, she was beaten by Aleksandra Wozniak in the first qualifying round. In doubles, Mirza and Vesnina are were runners-up against №1 seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond. Mirza then lost a tough 2–6, 6–1, 4–6 encounter to EleniDaniilidou in Round 1 of the BMW Malaysian Open.
Playing doubles at the Premier-line up of Indian Wells, Miami and Charleston, Mirza reached the final, lost in round one and made the quarters, respectively. She also reached round two of singles in Indian Wells. She then would begin the European Clay Court Season at the 2012 Estoril Open, where she was the semifinalist in doubles (with Anastasia Rodionova). She lost in round 2 of doubles in Madrid and also in Rome. Mirza returned on the singles circuit in May at the 2012 Brussels Open where she won three good matches — including her first ‘double bagel’ — in the qualifying competition, where she beat LesiaTsurenko by 6–0, 6–0, who was ranked 87 spots higher than her. She also won the doubles of the same event with BethanieMattek-Sands.
She then participated in the French Open in the Women’s doubles (with Mattek-Sands) and the French Open mixed doubles (with Bhupathi). In the doubles she suffered a first round shock defeat but found great success in the French Open mixed doubles where she and Bhupathi won the crown by defeating Santiago González of Mexico and KlaudiaJans-Ignacik of Poland 7–6 (7/3), 6–1 in the final on 7 June 2012.
Sania her parterYaroslavaShvedova crashed out of the 2012 Aegon Classic with a straight-set defeat against IvetaBenešová and AllaKudryavtseva. Mirza then would go on to falling in the qualifying singles and first round doubles at the 2012 Aegon International.
Sania and her American partner Mattek-Sands advanced to the third round of the women’s doubles competition at the 2012 Wimbledon Championships, where they fell to the Williams sisters. On 26 June 2012, SaniaMirza was awarded a wild card entry hence confirming her participation in women’s doubles event of the London Olympics. On 17 July 2012, Sania and her partner BethanieMattek-Sands were ousted in the first round of WTA Premier event in USA.
Mirza, partnering RushmiChakravarthy in the Women’s doubles competition at Olympics, bowed out, losing to Chinese Taipei in a tight match. She also lost in quarterfinals of mixed doubles with Leander Paes to Belarus in a tough encounter. At the Premier Mandatory events Montreal and Cincinnati, partnering Mattek-Sands, Mirza reached the quarterfinals and lost in round one of doubles, respectively.
In October 2012 the prize purse for female winners of the “Fenesta Open National Tennis Championship” was increased to be equal to that of male winners at Mirza’s suggestion to All India Tennis Association president Anil Khanna. Khanna also announced that “From now on we will see to it that all national tournaments have the same prize money for both categories women and men.
2013–2014: Top 5 doubles breakthrough
Mirza reached the quarterfinals of the 2013 Australian Openmixed doubles partnering Bob Bryan. BethanieMattek-Sands and SaniaMirza won the doubles title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in February.SaniaMirza won her second title in a row as she lifted the China Open trophy with Cara Black. She has partnered different players during 2013 and won 5 WTA Titles. Mirza began 2014 playing with Cara Black in the 2014 Apia International Sydney where they lost in the first round to AjlaTomljanović and JarmilaGajdošová 6–3, 6–2. Her next tournament was the 2014 Australian Open. Seeded 6th, Mirza and Black reached the quarterfinals at the 2014 Australian Open — Women’s Doubles before losing to top seeds and eventual champions Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci. She was more successful in the mixed doubles event, reaching the final partnering HoriaTecău of Romania. Tecău and Mirza lost to Kristina Mladenovic and Daniel Nestor in the final.
Mirza and Black next competed in the 2014 Qatar Total Open and lost to the pairing of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Nadia Petrova in the quartefinals. The pair lost in the first round of the 2014 Dubai Tennis Championships to Andrea Hlaváčková and Lucie Šafářová. They reached their first WTA Tour doubles final of the year at the 2014 BNP Paribas Open but lost to Hsieh Su-wei and Peng Shuai. Mirza and Black reached the semifinals of the 2014 Sony Open Tennis in Miami before losing to wildcards Martina Hingis and Sabine Lisicki. They finished runners-up to Errani and Vinci once again in the 2014 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. They won their first title of the year at the 2014 Portugal Open, defeating Eva Hrdinová and Valeria Solovyeva in the final, 6–4, 6–3.
Mirza and Black recorded three consecutive quarterfinal finishes in the subsequent clay tournaments, namely the 2014 Mutua Madrid Open, the 2014 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, and the 2014 French Open. In the mixed doubles event at the 2014 French Open, Mirza and HoriaTecău lost in the second round to TímeaBabos and Eric Butorac. Mirza began grass season playing in the 2014 Aegon Classic. She and Black lost to Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears in the semifinals. At the 2014 Aegon International, they reached the quarterfinals before losing to Chan Hao-ching and Chan Yung-jan. The pair next competed at the 2014 Wimbledon Championships and lost in the second round to the unseeded pairing of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Lucie Šafářová.
Mirza and Black next competed in the 2014 US Open and lost to the pairing of Martina Hingis and FlaviaPennetta in the semifinals. Mirza played the mixed doubles in the 2014 US Open pairing with Bruno Soares and went on to become the 2014 US Open Mixed Doubles Champions, thereby winning the third Mixed Doubles grand slam in her career.
SaniaMirza won a gold and bronze at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. She paired with SakethMyneni to beat China’s Hsien Yin Peng and Hao-Ching Chan and win gold in the mixed doubles tournament. She also won a bronze medal in Women’s doubles tournament, where she paired with PrarthanaThombare.
SaniaMirza is scheduled to participate in the International Premier Tennis League starting on 28 November 2014, playing with the Micromax Indian Aces.She played a key role for the Indian Aces to win the inaugral edition of the IPTL 2014.
In the year 2014, the government of Telangana, which is the newly formed 29th State of India appointed SaniaMirza as the brand ambassador to its State. Moreover, the First Chief Minister of TelanganaMr.KChandrashekar Rao honored SaniaMirza with an amount of rupees 1 Crore amount and also promised her that she will get all the necessary financial and infrastructure help to set up a tennis academy of International Standards in Hyderabad, Telangana.
4. Personal life
In 2009, SaniaMirza became engaged to childhood friend SohrabMirza, millionaire businessman. However the wedding was called off shortly after. She started seeing Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik. On 12 April 2010, she married Shoaib Malik in a traditional Muslim Islamic Wedding ceremony at the Taj Krishna Hotel in Hyderabad, India followed by Pakistani wedding customs for a mahr of 6.1 million (US$137,500). Their Walima ceremony was held in Lahore, Pakistan. The online attention the wedding received made Mirza the most searched woman tennis player and Indian sportsperson in 2010, according to Google Trends. The wedding was even more controversial because Malik was accused by another girl of already being married to her and hence he could not marry Mirza without first divorcing her. Initially for many days, Malik refused to grant the divorce claiming he was never married. As this resulted in media attention; he finally divorced the girl paving the way for his marriage to Mirza.
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. She is also a very good swimmer. She is related to former cricket captains Ghulam Ahmed of India, and Asif Iqbal of Pakistan.
Currently, Mirza is the brand ambassador for the Indian state of Telangana. Mirza has been coached by her father Imran and later Roger Anderson. She names Steffi Graf and Roger Federer as her tennis idols, and admires Mahatma Gandhi. Mahesh Bhupathi, BethanieMattek-Sands, Vania King, Cara Black, RushmiChakravarthi and Caroline Wozniacki are some of Mirza’s best friends on tour, all of which who have played doubles alongside her.
The tennis clothes she wears on the court has drawn criticism from some Muslim religious groups. According to one report published 8 September 2005, a Muslim scholar had issued a ruling, saying that her skirts and T-shirts were “un-Islamic” and “corrupting”. Jamiat-ulema-e-Hind rejected rumours about disrupting her game saying that they do not stop anyone from playing, although they found female tennis players’ dress code objectionable. Nevertheless, Calcutta police tightened security measures to protect her.
After Mirza spoke at a conference on safe sex in November 2005, some groups said she was a “corrupting influence on the youth.” Mirza clarified her stance by saying that she was opposed to pre-marital sex.
In 2006, some newspapers reported that Mirza declined to play doubles with Israeli tennis player ShaharPe’er for fear of protests from India’s Muslim community. However, when she teamed up with Pe’er for the 2007 WTA Tour of Stanford, California, there was no reaction.
Mirza was pictured resting her feet and showing the soles of her bare feet as she watched compatriot Rohan Bopanna play in the 2008 Hopman Cup, with an Indian flag in front. She faced possible prosecution under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act after a private citizen complained. Mirza protested, “I love my country, I wouldn’t be playing Hopman Cup otherwise.”
SaniaMirza, along with Sunitha Rao were photographed violating the dress code at Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremony parade in 2008.
On 4 February 2008, Mirza said that she would stop appearing in tennis tournaments held in India, starting with the 2008 Bangalore Open the following month, citing the series of controversies and upon advice by her manager.
But Mirza chose to participate at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. This time, she faced no controversies; also the Indian public was happy that she has started to play at major tournaments in India.
After both Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna refused to play in the men’s doubles event at the 2012 Olympics with Leander Paes, Paes demanded that he be partnered with Mirza for the mixed doubles event. Mirza was furious and accused the All India Tennis Association (AITA) of using her as ‘bait’ to keep Paes happy; she originally wanted to play with Bhupathi, whom she has won 2 grand slams with. In the end, Mirza was paired with Paes; the pair lost in the quarterfinals of the mixed doubles.
Mirza was photographed without the Indian flag at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. In response, Mirza reaffirmed her loyalty to the land of her birth — “To see the national flag go up while standing on the podium is the proudest moment in an athlete’s life and I will want to experience that for myself in London.”
Mirza was referred to by opponent political party as “Pakistan’s daughter-in-law” and unfit to be an Indian representative, after she was appointed the Telangana state’s brand ambassador. The comment referred to Mirza’s husband, Shoaib Malik being a Pakistani cricketer.
6. Social Contribution
Mirza has inspired millions of people in India into thinking that women can make a difference and can change the world.
SaniaMirza started “SaniaMirza Tennis Academy”, which was launched in March 2013 with the aim of providing world class tennis training to Indian tennis players. The academy also recognizes rural talents and a few selected are trained at no expenses to brighten India’s future.
SaniaMirza was announced as UN Goodwill Ambassador for South Asia. She is the first South Asian Woman to be appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador in the organization’s history.
Originally published at worldmuslimpedia.com.