The best doubles team on the WTA circuit in 2015 has been, without a doubt, the pair fondly nicknamed ‘SanTina’. This moniker was affectionately coined by fans who were swayed by the charms of the unlikely, ever-smiling duo who have simply made the doubles circuit their own personal stomping ground since their team-up in earlier in the year.
Both Mirza and Hingis are predominantly singles players who were forced to give it up to play only doubles for the sake of prolonging their injury-plagued careers. Things didn’t go as planned in both their careers but they came back with more resolve and character to do what they love most.
Sania Mirza used to be a promising singles player who achieved a career-high rank of 27 in 2007 and became the poster girl for women’s tennis in India. Armed with a ferocious forehand, she had a good backhand and decent with her volleys too. Her lack of on-court mobility meant that she never fully realised her potential though.
Martina Hingis, though, was a much more celebrated player with a series of youngest-ever records to her name. Five Grand Slam titles in singles and nine in doubles meant that she was ranked number one in both for a long time between 1996 and 2002. Hingis was also inducted into the International Tennis Hall-of-Fame in 2013.
Mirza was hit by a recurring wrist injury from 2008-2010 which resulted in a free-fall in her rankings and subsequent struggles to reclaim her form. After a fine 2007, where she entered the Top 30 and looked to take her game up a notch, the next 2-3 years seemed to have truncated a promising career.
Hingis was someone who achieved so much at an age where people only generally begin their professional careers. She underwent ankle surgery at age 20 and then retired two years later unable to recover. She did return to the game in 2005 but was unable to reach the previous heights of her career and another round of injuries forced her to retire for the second time in 2007.
Sania decided to stick to doubles only in order to continue her playing career forming a decent partnership mainly with Bethanie Mattek-Sands and later Cara Black, with whom she won the prestigious season-ending WTA Tour Finals title.
Martina continued playing on the legends circuit with the likes of other retired stars such as Lindsay Davenport, Anna Kournikova and Jana Novotna. She also coached youngsters like Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Sabine Lisicki and Belinda Bencic. In mid-2014, she decided to make a comeback to mainstream tennis, this time, sticking only to doubles.
Aura Of Invincibility
In March 2015, Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis teamed up for the first time for practice in Doha and it was a disaster as they just couldn’t click together as a team. They decided to persist with each other nonetheless and what a good decision that turned out to be!
The duo won their first Grand Slam together at Wimbledon 2015, Mirza’s first ever women’s title at Wimbledon 2015 and Hingis’ first in 13 years. They followed it up with a dominating US Open triumph and also clinched the prestigious WTA Tour Finals along with six other titles.
These two definitely put their injury woes aside and have opened a new chapter in their lives. Credit has to be given to the strength, resilience, determination and character of the two ladies who never gave up on their love for the sport.