Sania Mirza sheds 'happy tears' at her Grand Slam farewell
It is not often that one sees Sania Mirza crying. She is known to be tough and stoic. But on Friday at the Melbourne Park here, the Indian tennis icon broke down in “happy tears” as she bid adieu to the world of grand slams.
Her last stop in a major was a final appearance at the Australian Open, in the mixed doubles along with compatriot Rohan Bopanna.
Pairing up with her first-ever mixed doubles partner Bopanna, the unseeded Indian duo went down 6-7 (2), 2-6 to the Brazilian pair of Luisa Stefani and Rafael Mataos in the final at the Rod Laver Arena.
“If I cry, these are happy tears. That’s just a disclaimer. I’m still going to play a couple of more tournaments but my journey of my professional career started in Melbourne,” an emotional Sania said as she struggled to hold back tears.
“Rohan was my first-ever mixed doubles partner when I was 14 and we won the nationals. It was 22 years ago and I couldn’t think of a better person — he’s my best friend and one of my best partners — to finish my career,” Sania said, thanking Bopanna, who has one French Open mixed doubles title to his credit.
The 36-year-old, who earlier announced that the WTA event in Dubai next month will be her swansong, is India’s most accomplished woman tennis player, having won six grand slam titles (three doubles and three mixed doubles).
She had won the mixed doubles crown at the 2009 Australian Open and the 2012 French Open with Mahesh Bhupathi and the 2014 US Open with Brazillian Bruno Soares.
The Rod Laver Arena has been a happy hunting ground for the Indian icon. She has a women’s doubles and mixed doubles title each and has finished runner-up four times at the Australian Open.
“It started in 2005 when I played Serena Williams in the third round as an 18-year-old and that was scarily enough 18 years ago. I have had the privilege to come back here again and again, win some tournaments here and play some great finals amongst you all.
“Rod Laver Arena has really been special in my life and I couldn’t think of a better arena to finish my career at in a grand slam,” Sania said.
The presence of her son Izhaan, along with other family members and friends, made the occasion sweeter.
“I never thought I’d be able to play in front of my child in a grand slam final, so it’s truly special for me, to have my four-year-old here and my parents here, and Rohan’s wife, my trainers, my family in Australia who made me feel like home away from home.
“Cara Black who is my best friend and one of my first partners. It’s been truly special I wouldn’t be able to achieve anything without you all,” Sania said.
The Indians were on the back foot from the beginning as they were broken in the very first game and went on to lose the set in the tie-breaker. They let the Brazillians dominate them in the second set as Sania failed to hold serve in the fourth and eighth game to concede the match.
The Indian duo had defeated third seeds Desirae Krawczyk and Neal Skupski 7-6, 6-7, 10-6 to reach the final. They had got a walkover in the quarters.
Written with PTI inputs