(From Press Trust of India)
India’s tennis queen Sania Mirza on Saturday night created history by becoming the first female player from the country to win a women’s doubles Grand Slam trophy as she clinched the Wimbledon title with Swiss partner Martina Hingis in London.
Twelve years after turning Pro, 28-year-old Sania laid hands on her first women’s doubles major title when she and Hingis battled past second seed Russian team of Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina 5-7 7-6(4) 7-5 in a thrilling final.
In an interesting coincidence, it was at these very historic courts that Sania had won women’s doubles junior Wimbledon championship with Russian partner Alisa Kleybanova in 2003.
Sania had come close to winning a women’s doubles major in 2011 when she reached the French Open final with Elena Vesnina but ended up runners-up.
Already having a long list of firsts, Sania had become India’s first woman player to win a Grand Slam when she won the Australian Open with compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi in 2009.
She later added French Open (2012 with Bhupathi) and US Open (2014 with Bruno Soares) to her mixed doubles collection.
It was a remarkable turnaround for the top seeds on Saturday as they were trailing 2-5 in the deciding set but made a great comeback to reel off five straight games to clinch the issue.
Vesnina was all fired up and her smashing volleys at the net put Sania and Hingis in a lot of trouble. The Russian was left distraught as she played out of her skin.
It was third time in recent times that Sania and Hingis played the two Russian in finals – after the clashes in Indian Wells and Miami — and asserted their supremacy again.
Sania was broken in the very first game of the match when Vesnina hit a volley winner from the net but the top seeds immediately broke Vesnina to avoid falling behind. It was a remarkable lob from Hingis that gave them two break chances and they converted the second.
Sania and Hingis put tremendous pressure on the their rivals but the two Russians responded well and it was 5-5.
Hingis was broken in the 11th game at love after a terrific rally of powerful groundstrokes from left-handed Makarova. Vesnina pounced on one return from the Swiss and hammered the volley winner close to the body of Sania.
Makarova served for the set and it was Vesnina’s smart play at the net that sealed them the opening set. It was the first set that Sania and Hingis had dropped in this tournament.The top seeds had two chances to get an early break in the second set on the serve of Makarova but the Russians fought off both the chances to hold on.
There was no break of serve in the second set which was decided via tie-breaker. Sania and Hingis raced to a 4-1 lead before the Russians fought back to reduce the margin.
When Vesnina served at 4-5, Hingis sent a stunning backhand winner down the line to earn the set point which Sania converted with a powerful forehand shot.
The second seeds broke Hingis in the fourth game of the decider to take a commanding 3-1 lead. Yet again it was Vesnina, who was electric at the net as she sank a winner after the longest rally of the match.
A strong hold by Makarova made it 4-1 for the Russians. Sania and Hingis had great opportunity to make a comeback when Vesnina went down 0-40 in the seventh game but they could convert none of the three chances and fell behind 2-5.
Makarova served for the match in the ninth game but the top seeds brought the match back on serve, albeit after squandering three break chances.
Sania hit a stunning service return winner to earn fourth break point and Hingis’ volley converted the chance. From 2-5, they won four games in a row to be in a position to serve out the match.
‘Hope this inspires Indian girls’
Later talking to AFP, Sania said: “To come out here at Wimbledon, this is something we dream of as kids.
“[For] every kid that picks up a tennis racquet, this is about winning Wimbledon or playing at Wimbledon one day.
“When we came out at 5-5, we had goosebumps. The energy on the court, we were getting a standing ovation, it was unbelievable. We both came out and I said, ‘This is what we play for, this is what we work for, this energy.’”
Mirza praised the support she and Hingis received throughout the tournament and hoped her win will have a positive impact back home in cricket-mad India.
“I hope it inspires a lot of girls and makes them believe they can be Grand Slam champions too,” she said.
“I think for me as an Indian, I’m in Little India here. There are so many Indians in England. Thankfully, there are a lot of us everywhere. In England especially I’ve always had amazing support.”