With teams competing week in and week out on the ATP and WTA Tours, every doubles team becomes very familiar with its opponents. Thus, it is not surprising when rival pairs are the first ones to notice something is amiss in a well-established team.
WTA Tour veteran and two-time Grand Slam champion Yaroslava Shvedova was one of the first few players to get a hint that the renowned pair of Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis, popularly called Santina, did not have the same chemistry anymore. The Kazakh was one-half of the team that stopped Hingis and Mirza in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon this year where the Indo-Swiss combine succumbed to a 2-6, 4-6 loss.
At the 2016 US Open, Shvedova revealed to WTA Insider that things were not the same between then co-No. 1 players when she and Timea Babos defeated them.
“When we played them at Wimbledon, I felt it a little bit that they weren’t as bonded as they were before.”
Mirza and Hingis found success on the court tremendously fast. After joining forces in March 2015, they went on to win their first three tournaments to start off what would go on to become a legendary partnership. After a lull during the clay season, they found their spark back on the pristine lawns of the All England Club where they won their maiden Grand Slam as a team.
It was, however, their incredible run from the US Open that made them the most intimidating pair on the planet. From the end of August till February, they did not lose a single tournament that they entered, winning nine in a row that saw them build an astonishing 41-match winning streak. In 14 months together they scooped up 14 titles, three of which were Slams.
Naturally, with so much success in such a short period of time, it would have always been a tough act to follow up. Since their massive winning streak came to an end in February, they struggled hard to replicate that magical run.
Losses came fast and furious against teams they once dominated. In their next nine events, they managed to win just one title. Their inability to emulate their own feat from the previous season undoubtedly took a toll, creating pressure on both. The internal dynamics definitely changed because of that which spiralled into the decision to split in August.
Energy was not the same as before for ‘Santina’
Shvedova said that even though Team Santina’s decision to part ways came earlier than expected, she could sense during Wimbledon that a rift was imminent. The energy wasn’t the same as before, she pointed out.
“I was surprised that they split so fast, but I had a feeling because they’d lost a few matches and didn’t win everything like they were doing before,” the 28-year-old said.
“This had to be a difficult time for them, because when you’re used to winning everything and being unbeatable for a year, the energy could change when you lose a couple of matches and you start thinking about splitting,” she explained.
Sania is now playing with Czech Republic’s Barbora Strycova with whom she won the title at Cincinnati, besides reaching the quarter-finals of the US Open. As for Hingis, she has now paired up with Coco Vandeweghe of the USA. The two too have done fairly well having made it to the Cincinnati final and the US Open semi-finals.
If they continue to excel with their new partners and eventually qualify for the WTA Finals to be held in October, that might put them in a fix as they are supposed to reunite for the prestigious Year-Ender for which they have already qualified together.
“I know they’re still thinking of playing Singapore together because they already qualified, but they’re trying new partners. It’ll be interesting to see if they qualify with someone else and then they have to choose. There might be some drama!,” Shvedova noted.