Indian doubles World No. 1 Sania Mirza, who currently holds the top WTA doubles ranking, which she has held alone for over a month, could lose that ranking to her former partner Martina Hingis, with whom she shared top spot for 31 weeks.
The pair split from each other in August of this year, with both going on to play with new partners – Hingis with American Coco Vandeweghe, and Mirza with Czech player Barbora Strycova.
Mirza’s campaign with Strycova has got off to a strong start – the pair have already won a title together, edging out Hingis and Vandeweghe at the finals of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati earlier last month. Hingis, having reached that final, is not far behind Mirza in the points.
The Indian also has a title with Romania’s Monica Niculescu, which she won at New Haven in Connecticut.
Sania Mirza currently sits atop the rankings at 9730 points, but Hingis, at 9725, is not far behind. The former World No. 1 has not seen any lull in form, winning the silver in the women’s doubles at the Rio Olympic Games last month. Hingis, not having participated in New Haven, has also had those points from one fewer tournamen than Mirza has.
The pair of Hingis and Vandeweghe also made the semi-finals of the US Open, losing to eventual runners-up and top seeds Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic, with Mirza and Strycova making it to the quarter-finals – before losing to the exact same French pair.
While Mirza and Strycova are third seeds at the ongoing Wuhan Open, Hingis and Vandeweghe are seeded sixth. The pairs are in opposite halves at the tournament, meaning their only chance at facing off will be in the finals.
The Indo-Czech pair come into Wuhan on the back of a title win at the WTA Tokyo Toray Pan Pacific Open, where they defeated the all-Chinese combine of Chen Liang and Zhaoxuan Yang.
Hingis partnered former World No. 1 Jelena Jankovic in Guangzhou last week, with the pair losing out in the semi-finals of that tournament. Now, however, the Swiss, a former No. 1 in the singles and one of the most prodigious exponents of the women’s game, has a golden opportunity to overtake her former partner.
Interestingly, Mirza and Hingis are the defending champions at the Wuhan Open, winning the title in 2015.
A potential Mirza-Hingis rivalry
Strong performances by both pairs now stand to pose yet another interesting angle to the WTA Finals in Singapore. Mirza and Hingis, who ended 2015 as the World No. 1 pair and shared the ranking until August this year, have already qualified for the event together. But now, given Mirza’s consistently high finishes with Strycova, the pair could qualify afresh together if they finish in the top 8 ranked women’s doubles pairs.
This means that Mirza, as the common factor, has the liberty to choose her doubles partner in Singapore; Mirza and Hingis are the defending women’s doubles champions here, having defeated the Spanish combine of Carla Suarez-Navarro and Garbine Muguruza.
As things currently stand, Mirza and Hingis are second on the women’s doubles leaderboard behind Garcia and Mladenovic; Mirza and Strycova are together at 15th, while Hingis and Vandeweghe are at 20th. Should the Indo-Czech combine be able to make up 7 places on the leaderboard, we could see a former partnership blossom strongly into a consistent rivalry.