Sania Mirza: A class apart
The International Premier Tennis League, formally announced in May 2013, was a major hit in India in its first season, with the Roger Federer Vs Novak Djokovic game in the Indian capital drawing unprecedented crowds.
The Philippine Mavericks, Indian Aces, UAE Royals and Singapore Slammers contested the first time around. This year, the Japan Warriors join the fray, adding one more city to the league. Now in its second year, the league has a Roger Federer Vs Rafael Nadal match scheduled for December 2015! Amid the frenzy around the Swiss Maestro, India’s Sania Mirza put up her own show in the star-studded league.
Mirza, who began her career as a singles specialist, became the first Indian woman to reach the fourth round of any Grand Slam during the 2005 US Open. Since then, she has only gone from strength to strength.
The Hyderabadi ace then moved on to doubles, winning the 2009 Australian Open Mixed Doubles trophy with compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi, the present managing director of the fledging league. The current World No. 1 in doubles won the season-ending WTA Championships with Cara Black, as well as the US Open Mixed Doubles with Bruno Soares.
Mirza was drafted into the Indian Aces squad alongside Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, Gael Monfils, Ana Ivanovic and Indian doubles specialist Rohan Bopanna. Frenchman Fabrice Santoro was appointed as coach for the team, with the team kicking off their campaign with a win against the Singapore Slammers.
She won her first match comfortably, partnering Bopanna in their 6-4 win against the doubles pair of Daniela Hantuchova and Bruno Soares. The pair went on to win four more games, but their winning streak was eventually broken by the Manila Mavericks pair of Kristen Flipkens and Daniel Nestor. Overall, the Mirza-Bopanna pair had an 8-3 record, helping the Indian Aces to win the league comfortably in the end.
The doubles ace paired with Roger Federer in New Delhi, with the Swiss Maestro showing off his dancing skills on their way to 6-0 win over Nick Kyrgios and Daniela Hantuchova.
Carrying forward her good form into the new year, she won the doubles title at the Apia International tournament with friend and partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands this January. The 2004 Arjuna Awardee won the Wimbledon women’s doubles title this year, catapulting her to World No. 1. She was partnered by Swiss miss Martina Hingis, herself a former singles World No. 1.
Known for her powerful groundstrokes and volleying, she will be a definite asset for the Indian Aces. Mirza can also play as a back-up to Ana Ivanovic, who plays the women’s singles for the Aces.
Former World No. 1 Rafael Nadal re-joins the squad this year after missing out at last year’s tournament, and will be leading the side alongside Mirza.