Sania Mirza is a path-breaking athlete who almost single-handedly put Indian women's tennis on the global map. She is the first and so far only Indian female player to have won a Grand Slam title in any format, and is also the only player to have broken into the top 30 of the WTA singles rankings.
Sania's doubles partnership with Martina Hingis is widely celebrated for its style and success. In 2015 and 2016, Sania and Hingis were the best doubles players on the planet, winning 3 Slams and 2 WTA Finals titles.
Today, Sania is a sporting and socio-cultural icon in India, whose stature rivals that of the top cricketers in the country.
Best finish at each of the four Grand Slams - singles:
Australian Open: 3rd Round (2005, 2008)
French Open: 2nd Round (2007, 2011)
Wimbledon: 2nd Round (2005, 2007, 2008, 2009)
US Open: 4th Round (2005)
Highest Ranking: No. 27
Best finish at each of the four Grand Slams - doubles:
Australian Open: Champion (2016)
French Open: Runner-up (2011)
Wimbledon: Champion (2015)
US Open: Champion (2015)
Highest Ranking: No. 1
Best finish at each of the four Grand Slams - mixed doubles:
Australian Open: Champion (2009)
French Open: Champion (2012)
Wimbledon: Quarterfinalist (2011, 2013, 2015)
US Open: Champion (2014)
Style of play, strengths and weaknesses
Sania is an aggressive player with one of the biggest forehands in the game. She can dictate any rally by powering her forehand into the corners, and is capable of hitting winners off that wing even from defensive positions.
Sania's forehand was one of the main reasons why she could challenge the top players in singles at the start of her career. While she had a few weaknesses in her game, her forehand was so unique that it regularly featured in 'best forehands in the game' lists.
Sania's backhand is fairly efficient, but her serve is attackable and inconsistent. Her movement is not the greatest either, which hampers her during long rallies and long matches.
Sania started out as an aggressive baseliner, but started approaching the net a lot more as her focus shifted to doubles. Her volleys have improved over time, and during her partnership with Hingis she occasionally matched the Swiss' finesse at the net.
Sania was born in Mumbai, but has lived in Hyderabad for much of her life. She started playing tennis at the age of six, and her father Imran Mirza has been her primary coach ever since.
Sania married Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik in April 2010. In April 2018 the couple announced that they were pregnant with their first child, which put Sania's tennis career on hold.
Sania's popularity with the Indian masses has earned her a number of endorsement deals, and she has also taken up modelling on occasion.
Sania has created many firsts for Indian women, and has become a source of inspiration for millions of young girls aspiring to become tennis players. She was the first Indian woman to break into the top 100 of the WTA singles rankings, the first to win a WTA singles tournament, the first to win the year-ending WTA Finals (doubles), and the first to triumph at a Slam of any kind.
She has also fared incredibly well while representing India at multi-nation events, winning several medals (including gold) in both singles and doubles at the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and Afro-Asian Games. She fell just short of a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, as she and Rohan Bopanna lost in the semifinals.
Sania's influence and fame have transcended the boundaries of tennis. While she has courted controversy on occasion with her forthright comments, she has also repeatedly spoken up on women's rights and minority issues, winning her fans all across the globe.
With 6 Grand Slams in doubles and mixed doubles, a top-30 career in singles and a pervasive presence in India's social and cultural fabric, Sania has ensured that she will remain a celebrated national icon for a long time to come.
Social media presence:
Sania Mirza Instagram: @mirzasaniar
Sania Mirza Twitter: @MirzaSania