Sania Mirza: After trailblazing 20-year career, Indian tennis superstar plays her final match



Knowing when to say goodbye to a 20-year professional career is never easy, but six-time Grand Slam winner and tennis trailblazer Sania Mirza says her retirement this week is on her own terms.

The 36-year-old Indian star played her last professional match at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday, where she teamed up with doubles partner Madison Keys to lose 6-4, 6-0 to Veronika Kudermatova and Lyudmila Samsonova. Mirza had earlier announced his retirement earlier this year.

“I feel very grateful today. I’ll still be around tennis. It’s not just competition,” Mirza told reporters.

The star, mother to four-year-old son Izahan, is also planning to mentor the women’s Royal Challengers Bangalore cricket team.

according to As for the team, Mirza will “guide our women cricketers to perform well under pressure.”

“The whole concept of being me has nothing to do with cricket,” Mirza told the WTA website. “It really has to do with the mental aspect of things with these little girls.

“They have never been in positions where their careers, so much money, millions were riding on them. Many of them haven’t been on TV, haven’t done commercials, haven’t shot. It’s very easy to get distracted from that. It’s also very easy to feel stressed and pressured because there are so many expectations on you.”

Former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka told the WTA website that what Mirza has done for India is “absolutely remarkable, for the region here.”

Azarenka added, “Little girls who haven’t had a role model before can see what’s possible. “I think it’s invaluable. This is going to be his legacy. ”

After turning pro in 2003, Mirza became the first Indian woman to win the WTA title at her home event, the Hyderabad Open, in 2005.

The right-handed Mirza excelled in singles, reaching a career-high No. 27 before mastering doubles, winning mixed doubles at the French Open in 2012 and the US Open two years later.

After partnering with Swiss Martina Hingis in 2015, Mirza won three consecutive majors, winning at Wimbledon and the US Open, and the Australian Open in 2016.

In 2015, she reached No. 1 in doubles and became the first Indian woman to hold the No. 1 ranking on the WTA Tour, and was the year-end world No. 1 in doubles for both 2015 and 2016.

When Mirza was young, people often expressed their displeasure at his parents playing tennis.

“People came and said, ‘Aren’t you wasting your money, don’t you think she should be a doctor, don’t you think you should put all this money into her education?'” Mirza said. told CNN in 2015.

“When I said, ‘One day I want to play Wimbledon,’ it was taken as a joke because it hadn’t happened before.

Mirza leaves behind a remarkable legacy -- on and off the court.

“Sport always teaches you that no matter how many odds are against you, you can overcome them. My life is a perfect example … of what it means to rise above the odds. When I started playing tennis, not many people believed that sports could be a profession for a girl from Hyderabad.

“A lot of people (say to me) all the time, ‘You’re the first woman to do that, you’re the first Indian to do that — male or female,'” Mirza said.

“It’s not something I consciously think about every time I step on the court but I know in the back of my head that I’ve played a little part and I feel privileged to say, And I’m proud to say it. , that I have been part of a change.

“I think the most important thing is what the general public thinks about it, the public. If you put it in perspective, it seems so small, winning a tennis match, in life.

“At the end of the day, though, it’s amazing because it brings everyone together and it’s been very special for me to give back to the country.”

Switzerland's Mirza and Martina Hingis celebrate with the trophy after winning the women's doubles final at Wimbledon in 2015.

Mirza also found himself at the center of several controversies during his career.

She received a lot of criticism for wearing a skirt on court in 2005 – which is routine for female players – but it paled in comparison to the condemnation she received in 2010 for marrying former Pakistan cricket captain Shoaib Malik. Relations between India and Pakistan’s neighbors have been strained for a long time.

“I’ve had a lot of controversies for a lot of different reasons,” says Mirza, who is Muslim. “The fact that I’ve been through it all, it’s been a good learning experience. It has made me the person I am today and it has made me a strong and very mature person. ”

She leaves tennis with the hope that she has inspired her countrymen and women.

“I think India [has produced] Our biggest superstars outside of cricket are women, be it in badminton, boxing or wrestling. It is women who have won more medals than men in the last two Olympics,” he told reporters.

“I think what tennis has brought me over the last 20 years is what I’ve given it. It has also paid me back twofold. ”

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