One of India’s first prominent women tennis players in the Slam era, Sania Mirza has had a great deal of influence on the growing interest in tennis among the country’s youth, especially girls.
Sania’s journey has been a rollercoaster, myriad with controversies around her skirts, her choice of husband, and all the sexism women, especially sportswomen, are subjected to all over the world.
Playing tennis since she was six-years-old, Sania started turned professional in 2003. In the same year, she won the Wimbledon Championships Girls' Doubles title – marking a blazing entry into the sport. In fact, in 2005, Time magazine named her as one of the 50 Heroes of Asia. In 2006, Sania was conferred with the Padma Shri.
Over the years, she has achieved several accolades, prizes, and praise. On her birthday, we list some key achievements of Sania’s public life and career that make her an inspiration to young girls all over the world.
Highest ranked Indian player from 2003 to 2013
Mirza holds the record for being the highest ranked female player from India with a career high of being world number 27 in 2007. Between 2003 and 2013, Sania has been India's number 1 women's player in both singles as well as doubles.
2003: Historic victory in Wimbledon
In 2003, Sania partnered with former Russian player Alisa Kleybanova and won the Wimbledon Championships Girls' Doubles title by defeating Katerina Bohmova of Czech Republic and Michaela Krajicek of the Netherlands.
It was after 51 years that an Indian female tennis player was in the finale of a Grand Slam, after Rita Dabur, who had finished a runner-up in the singles event in 1952. The then 16-year-old Sania became the first Indian female to have won any Grand Slam title.
2009: Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupati become first Indian pair to win a Grand Slam mixed doubles title
During the 2009 Australian Open, Sania picked up her first Australian Grand Slam title when she and Mahesh Bhupati crushed Andy Ram of Israel and Nathalie Dechy of France.
This was after the two Indian players rebounded from their loss in the previous year's Australian Open final.
2012: Conquering the French Open Mixed Doubles
In their third Grand Slam finale together, Sania and Mahesh won their second double’s title and their first French Open trophy defeating Klaudia Jans-Ignacik of Poland and Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico.
UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador for South Asia
Over the years, Sania has used her spotlight to speak out on gender issues like female foeticide and India’s decreasing sex ratio. She has also encouraged young girls to challenge gender barriers, especially in the world of sport, making her a role model to many.
In November 2014, the youth icon was appointed the Regional UN Women Ambassador to South Asia at an event for the International Day To End Violence Against Women.
At the time, she said, "My role is a very important battle that I will fight off the tennis court for gender equality. Gender Equality is what I believe in.”
2015: First Women’s Doubles Grand Slam and the dream team
In 2015, Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis established themselves as the No. 1 team by winning the Wimbledon Women’s Doubles Grand Slam at Melbourne Park by defeating the Russian duo Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnisa.
This was Sania’s first Women’s Doubles Grand Slam. The duo continued the winning streak at the US Open in the same year and at the Australian Open in 2016.
Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Padma Bhushan
Sania was conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in 2015, becoming the second tennis player to receive the country's highest sporting honour after Leander Paes.
She was also honoured with the Padma Bhushan at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in 2016.
2016: The Time 100 list
Sania Mirza made it to the Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list in 2016. Her Time 100 tribute written by none other than cricket superstar Sachin Tendulkar, who wrote that her "confidence, strength and resilience reach beyond tennis" and that she has “inspired a generation of Indians to pursue their dreams ", and to realize that they can also be the best.
Fly high, Sania! And, a very happy birthday.