Sania Mirza, the Indian tennis star, has officially announced her retirement from professional tennis after a landmark career that saw her reach great heights, break down barriers, and inspire young women in India and around the world.
Her final match was a women’s doubles encounter at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday, where she partnered with America’s Madison Keys, but lost to the Russian pair Veronika Kudermetova and Liudmila Samsonova.
Sania Mirza has had an extraordinary career, having represented India at the elite level of the sport, where few Indian women have even featured in Grand Slam main draws.
Sania has won six doubles Grand Slam titles, and spent 91 weeks as the doubles World No. 1. In singles, where India has not seen success outside of Sania for nearly three decades, she became the first Indian woman to reach the second week of a singles Major, and reached a career-high ranking of World No. 27 on the singles tour.
While Sania’s fans are sad to see her retire, there is very little sense that she is on the decline. She reached the final of the Australian Open last month and showed many glimpses of the intelligent, attacking tennis that made her a force on the doubles tour.
But going out on her own terms was more important to her than extending her career further. She had planned to hang up her racquet at the end of 2022, but when her plans were derailed by injury, she extended it by a few months. The run in Melbourne was a vindication of that decision and a reminder of the love that so many fans have had for her over the years.
In an interview with The Indian Express a few days prior to her final tournament in Dubai, Sania reflected on her achievements, and the various challenges she faced during her storied career.
She spoke about the pressures of being a young woman, constantly under the gaze of the public, and having her appearance, fitness, public life, statements, and stances all scrutinized intensely, while her life choices were relentlessly questioned.
Sania’s success as a young Muslim woman from Hyderabad going up against the world’s best made her a path-breaker at a very young age. She was renowned as a trendsetter before she was acknowledged for tennis excellence, with her powerful, whipped forehand eventually finding its place in the sport’s iconography.
Before the likes of PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Mary Kom, and Nikhat Zareen, Indian women growing up with the dream of pursuing sports professionally had only one person to look up to. Sania was not just a flag-bearer for women’s sports, but for tennis in India in general.
Sania was not too keen to let the pressure of being a path-breaker affect her, but instead, she embraced it. “You have to embrace the pressure Everybody is under pressure in all walks of life. That’s just how life works.
I want to tell these young women – don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do what you want. You cannot let anybody else decide what you should or should not do, and I am sure they will try. No matter how outside the box your choice is, always back yourselfSania Mirza
Sania’s achievements have not only inspired young women in India but have also helped change the way people view women in sports. She has helped increase the visibility of women in sports in India, and her influence is now being felt in other areas of life too.