Indian tennis queen Sania Mirza will return to action on the WTA Tour at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati this week. The former World No. 1 has joined forces with Tunisian star Ons Jabeur for this WTA 1000 tournament scheduled to be held from August 16-22.
Sania Mirza and Ons Jabeur have a difficult assignment in their opener as they face the in-form pair of Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Rybakina. The Russian-Kazakh duo have come to this tournament on the back of a semifinal finish at the National Bank Open in Montreal last week and will be a tough nut to crack.
The Indian has played against one half of the pair - Veronika Kudermetova - at this year's Wimbledon Championships. Mirza and Bethanie Mattek-Sands went down to the all-Russian pair of Kudermetova and Elena Vesnina in the second round of the grasscourt Major.
Sania Mirza is a former champion at Cincinnati
While the draw is indeed tough, Sania Mirza will look to draw inspiration from her previous success on the fast hardcourts of Cincinnati. The 34-year-old has made the doubles final at the Western and Southern Open thrice, winning two of them.
Mirza's first couple of finals at this tournament came when it was still a Tier III event. In 2006, she lost the final alongside Poland's Marta Domachowska before rebounding to win the very next year with Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the USA.
The Indian went on to taste glory at this tournament nine years later in 2016 when it was upgraded to a Premier 5 event. This time her partner was Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic.
Sania Mirza is yet to reach a final this season
The 139th-ranked Sania Mirza has played just five tournaments this year, with her best result being a semifinal finish at the Qatar Open in Doha back in March. The six-time Grand Slam champion is coming to Cincinnati this week following a first-round exit from the Tokyo Olympics, where she partnered Ankita Raina.
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Mirza's partner, Ons Jabeur, meanwhile, is enjoying a phenomenal season in singles, where she is placed at a career-high 22nd in the world rankings. She plays doubles sparingly but has been able to make an impression this season even with her limited play.
Out of four events, the Tunisian has reached the final in Birmingham and the quarterfinals in Charleston and will hope to bring that form to Cincinnati.