After 13 years of professional career that has given 39 doubles titles, a singles title and the much-coveted World No.1 ranking in women’s doubles, it is no surprise that Indian tennis star Sania Mirza has a wealth of knowledge about the sport and her fellow players. Even her doubles partners are now acknowledging how much invaluable her tips and guidance are.
Monica Niculescu, the 28-year-old Romanian, played doubles with the Indian at the Connecticut Open in New Haven last week which saw them winning the title in emphatic fashion, dropping just one set along the way.
Following that win, Niculescu had a tough first round singles match at the US Open on Monday against another of Sania’s title-winning doubles partners, Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic. Strycova was the higher-ranked player and was even seeded 18th but the Romanian managed to carve out an upset 6-3, 6(3)-7, 6-1 victory in 2 hours 22 minutes.
In her post-match conversation with the WTA Insider, the World No. 58, who is herself a veteran, praised Mirza effusively for letting her learn so much about the game during their doubles stint.
“It was amazing. Listen, I learned so much from that week, and she gave me so many tips on how to play certain girls and how to see the game,” Niculescu said.
“She has so much power and it was so nice to play with her; she was hitting so big and I just had to go to the net and do my stuff.”
The Romanian even went to the extent of thanking Sania for choosing her as her doubles partner and also admitted that she hopes to play with the Indian again.
“I learned so many things. I want to thank her for playing with me, and I felt fantastic. I’m hoping to play again, when I can with her, because it was great.”
Niculescu now goes on to play her fellow Romanian Ana Bogdan in the second round while Mirza is playing the doubles at the US Open alongside the player who Niculescu defeated – Barbora Strycova.
The Indo-Czech pair starts their challenge against the unheralded American combine of Jada Myii Hart and Ena Shibahara.