Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza eye third straight Grand Slam title in 2016 Australian Open final
Do the two-time Grand Slam champions Hlavackova and Hradecka have any chance against the ruthless pair of Hingis and Mirza?
If Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams are the epitome of domination in singles, then Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza are their counterparts in doubles currently. The Indo-Swiss pair had been relentless since joining forces right before the Indian Wells tournament last March and they kicked off their partnership in impeccable fashion, winning their first three tournaments.
Even though they suffered a minor blip on their weakest surface – clay – they roared back on grass and captured the Wimbledon title in a stunning comeback against the Russian pair of Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova. The duo rampaged through the draw at the US Open and since annexing their second Major crown, they have been invincible.
The pair, popularly called ‘SanTina’ by their beloved fans, has now racked up 35 wins in a row en route the Australian Open summit clash against the seventh seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka. This immaculate run of wins has seen them surpassing Gigi Fernandez and Natasha Zvereva’s 1994 record of 28 consecutive victories as the Indo-Swiss juggernaut rolled to title wins in Guangzhou, Wuhan, Beijing, the WTA Finals last year and Brisbane and Sydney this year.
What stands out the most in this spectacular journey of Hingis and Mirza is that they dropped sets just six times in 35 matches! Their teaming up has been so seamless and so successful that it is a surprise why they never contemplated about pairing up before.
Hingis and Mirza complement each other
Their respective weapons perfectly complement each other making them a match made in tennis heaven. If the Swiss Miss needed more power, Mirza is always there to her rescue with her ferocious forehands. If the Indian star had been searching for a partner with more finesse, touch and guile, then Hingis is the best choice she could have ever made.
What’s more is that their mutual trust and confidence have pulled them out even when they looked to be in dire straits. At the Sydney final just the week before the Australian Open, the World No. 1 duo was staring at defeat after going a set and a break down to the French pair of Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic.
But their ability to pinpoint their weak areas and immediately improve upon them is what helped them to regroup and claw their way back to the title, leaving their opponents dumbfounded. At the Australian Open too, the top seeds showed a glimpse of their quick learning skills. They were made to grind by the American-German combine of Coco Vandeweghe and Anna-Lena Groenefeld for a three-set quarter-final triumph.
If that had presented a window of opportunity and optimism for the other teams, then Team Santina switftly fastened that window and obliterated all those hopes of their rivals. In their next outing, their opponents – Karolina Pliskova and Julia Georges – were left battered and bruised as they could win just one game in an absolutely hapless 1-6, 0-6 defeat to the top seeds.
That surely isn’t music to the ears of Hlavackova and Hradecka, who will be locking horns with the numero uno team on Friday. The Czechs are no strangers to Grand Slam titles themselves, having won the 2011 French Open and the 2013 US Open titles together. But they parted ways in between and this is their first appearance in a Slam final since re-uniting.
Tough run for Hlavackova-Hradecka combine
If Mirza and Hingis had a smooth sailing for most part of the draw at this Australian Open, the Czechs were gritty battlers. They fought their way to three-set wins thrice out of their five matches, which also includes an upset of the second seeds Yung-Jan Chan and Hao-Ching Chan in the last-eight stage.
But facing Hingis and Mirza is a different proposition altogether. The two teams had crossed swords at the WTA Finals on the hardcourts of Singapore last October and the top seeds had emerged a comfortable 6-3, 6-4 winner.
It is tough to dent the burgeoning confidence of the Indo-Swiss duo and the outcome in the women’s doubles final doesn’t look likely to be anything different. Mirza, especially, has been the rock of the team and her improved volleys and backhands along with her already-established fierce forehands make her a force to reckon with. It is difficult to make a breakthrough until and unless the top seeds fall victims to fatigue after playing and winning so many matches.
For Hingis, this is her most consistent and successful Slam where she has won the singles title thrice, the doubles title four times and the mixed doubles title twice as well. She definitely wouldn’t let go of this golden opportunity to add one more crown at the Melbourne Park after lifting the doubles trophy for the last time in 2002.
As for Sania, she too has a small score to settle with the Czech team. The first time she reached a women’s doubles final at the 2011 French Open, it was this very Czech pairing who had stopped her. Mirza’s teammate then was Elena Vesnina and the Indo-Russian combine had succumbed to a 4-6, 3-6 defeat.
Five years on, alongside a different partner, she would be upbeat to avenge that loss.