Indian tennis ace Sania Mirza will be representing the nation at Rio Olympics 2016 in Women’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles events. Sania, who is currently World No. 1 in Women’s Doubles, will partner Prarthana Thombare in her favourite discipline, while she will be seen partnering Rohan Bopanna in the Mixed Doubles event at the Games. Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about Sania:
#1 Sania Mirza was born on 15 November 1986 in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. She was brought up in Hyderabad. Sania started playing tennis at the age of six. Her first coach was her father Imran Mirza, who put his journalistic career on the line to help his daughter chase her dreams.
#2 She did her schooling from NASR School in Hyderabad and graduated from St. Mary’s College. On 11 December 2008. Mirza received an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the MGR Educational and Research Institute University in Chennai. Roger Federer and Stefi Graf were her inspirations as a youngster, and she idolized them and dreamed of emulating them by winning Grand Slam titles herself.
#3 She became third Indian women to play in the Open Era and win a round at a Grand Slam event. The first Indian player to participate in a Grand Slam was Nirupama Vaidyanathan at the 1998 Australian Open, and the second woman was Shikha Uberoi at the 2004 US Open. She had a great show in the 2005 Australian Open where she reached the third round, the highest position ever achieved by an Indian woman at the Grand Slams in the singles event.
#4 Sania is the brand ambassador for the state of Telangana. She established her tennis academy where young aspiring tennis players are given coaching and training to hone their skills in Murthuzaguda, in March 2013. Many world class tennis players like Cara Black and former World No.1 and one of the greatest tennis players of all time, Martina Navratilova have visited her academy to give talks to tennis players and inspire them to achieve their dreams.
#5 She is one of the biggest supporters of women empowerment and equality for women, something that she is very vocal about. Her contributions for the upliftment of women around Asia made the United Nations assign her as the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador for South Asia. She created history in the process as she became the first South Asian Woman to be appointed as Goodwill Ambassador for UN.
#6 She was considered to be one of the brightest prospects in the world of tennis by the greats of the game during her junior days. As a junior player, she used her powerful forehand and precise timing to win 10 singles and 13 doubles titles all around the world. She created history by winning the 2003 edition of the Wimbledon in the girls’ doubles event with her partner Alisa Kleybanova. The pair defeated Katrina Böhmová and Michaëlla Krajicek in the final to clinch the titles.
#7 She saw fame and accolades come her way at a very young age, as she won three major awards in three successive years. In 2004 she awarded with the prestigious Arjuna Award for her successful outings in the game of tennis, followed by the WTA Newcomer of the Year award in 2005. In 2006, the Indian Government conferred her with the Padma Shree Award for making the country proud on the international stage, and for her contributions to the sport.
#8 Sania is known for being the top-ranked player in women’s doubles tennis with her partner Swiss great Martina Hingis, but she has also achieved success in the mixed doubles event of the game by winning many prestigious titles. With compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi, she won the Australian Open (2009) and French Open (2012). In 2014, Sania and doubles partner Bruno Soares of Brazil clinched the US Open Mixed Doubles title.
#9 She was engaged to her childhood friend Sohrab Mirza in 2009, but the wedding was called off shortly after. She got married to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik on 12 April 2010 at the Taj Krishna Hotel in Hyderabad, in a traditional Muslim ceremony. Both Indian as well as Pakistani traditions were followed in the marriage ceremony, and she received Rs 61 lakh from her father as ‘meher’. The newly wedded couple’s Walima was held in Lahore, Pakistan. She plans on starting a family once she retires from the sport, to give all of her time to her family.
#10 In 2010, she was the most searched person on popular search engine Google. She is very popular among youngsters and is one of the most recognized Indians around the world. She was named in the list of ’50 Heroes of Asia’ by Time in October 2005. She received the honour of being named in the list of ’33 Women Who Made India Proud’ by The Economics Times in Match 2010.