Can Sania Mirza win her first doubles Grand Slam title in Melbourne?
Analysing Sania Mirza's chances at this year's Australian Open.
The big stars of tennis have aligned at the first mega showdown of the year – the Australian Open. While there have been plenty of predictions about which player will make the cut in the men’s and women’s singles after an exciting 2014 season, the doubles section has an appeal of its own with its varied styles of play and entertaining reflex rallies.
Of special interest to Indian fans would be Sania Mirza’s progress, who has entered the tournament partnering with Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan. The Indian has never won a women's doubles Slam, but will be looking to make the 2015 Australian Open the stage of her maiden triumph. But the big question is: can she do it?
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Mirza following up on a season to remember
Mirza had positive results with the Zimbabwean Cara Black in the doubles last year. Seeded sixth at the 2014 Australian Open, the pair reached as far as the quarterfinals. Their second success came at the Miami Open where they finished runners-up to Martina Hingis and Sabine Lisicki.
At the Portugal Open in Oeiras, Mirza won her first doubles title of the season, defeating Eva Hrdinova and Valeria Solovyeva in the final. Mirza and Black then carried forward their strong run of from to the grasscourts, reaching the semifinals at the Aegon Classic.
Wimbledon ended in disappointment as Mirza and Black bowed out in the second round. But there was plenty of cheer at the US Open, where the pair went all the way up to the semifinals. The Indo-Zimbabwean duo then won their biggest title together at the WTA Finals, making Mirza the first Indian, male or female, to win a season-ending championship.
However, Mirza’s biggest victories have traditionally come in the mixed doubles, and 2014 was no different. To offset her unsuccessful ventures in Grand Slams in the doubles category, Mirza reached the finals of the Australian Open with the Romanian partner Horia Tecau.
But her biggest moment came at the US Open, where she won her maiden mixed doubles US Open Championship with Bruno Soares. The Indian had already won the Australian Open (2009) and the French Open (2012) in the mixed doubles earlier.
New partner for the Australian Open – sign of better things to come?
Mirza’s best Australian Open showing came in 2012, when she made the semifinals partnering with Elena Vesnina. Her current partner Hseih Su-Wei is ranked 5th in the world in doubles, and is a former World No. 1, so the team certainly has a wealth of experience. The Indian-Taiwanese pair are seeded second at this year’s Australian Open, and they are coming off a semifinal run together at the Brisbane International.
Of course, while Hsieh was participating in the singles qualifying for the Australian Open, Mirza played in Sydney too, joining hands with former partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands to win her first title of the season and 23rd of her career.
It goes without saying that Mirza is one of the favourites going into the Australian Open. She and Hsieh won their first match of the tournament in ruthless fashion, dispatching Irigoyen-Oprandi 6-2, 6-0 in the first round.
The good thing for the Indo-Taiwanese pair is that they are placed in the half opposite to that of Errani-Vinci and Makarova-Vesnina, who won three of the four Majors last year combined. What is even better news, perhaps, is that Venus and Serena Williams withdrew from the tournament earlier today, making every other pair’s job just a little bit easier.
Can Sania Mirza win her first doubles Grand Slam at the 2015 Australian Open? It’s never really possible to accurately predict such things, to be honest. But with a favourable draw, a strong partner and a wave of confidence from last year’s successes, the Indian is in the right place and at the right time. With a little bit of luck, she might just achieve this significant milestone in Melbourne!