Sania Mirza is, quite simply, India's first female tennis superstar.
While Leander Paes, with his 1996 Atlanta Olympics bronze and many accolades, guided Indian tennis into the new millennium, tennis fans around the country were pining for someone to champion the tricolour on the women’s arena.
In Sania Mirza from Hyderabad, the nation found exactly that.
Looking back, here’s a comprehensive rundown of Sania Mirza’s awards and accolades, which not only established herself as India’s biggest female tennis star but a national sporting icon as well.
Sania Mirza’s Grand Slam titles
Often regarded as the definitive gauge of a top tennis player’s achievements on the pro circuit, Sania Mirza’s trophy cabinet is studded with six Grand Slam winners’ medals.
Australian Open 2009 mixed doubles
Having stumbled at the final hurdle at Melbourne Park a year earlier, the duo was on a mission and didn’t drop a single set until reaching the quarter-final against the Canadian pairing of Aleksandra Wozniak and Daniel Nestor.
The Indian pair lost the first set 3-6 but came roaring back to move into the semi-finals.
From there on, there was no looking back as the two outplayed Czech duo Iveta Benesova and Lukas Dlouhy 6-4, 6-1 in the semis before upstaging Israel’s Andy Ram and France’s Nathalie Dechy 6-3, 6-1 to clinch the title.
“It’s always a dream to win a Grand Slam. That’s what we all play for. It’s just great. It makes it more special because it’s with someone that I know for so long and so well,”
French Open 2012 mixed doubles
The duo would pair up to do India proud yet again three years later, this time on the hallowed clay of Roland Garros.
Entering the 2012 French Open as seventh seeds, Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi cruised through the tournament. They beat the Polish-Mexican pairing of Klaudia Jans-Ignacik and Santiago Gonzalez 7-6, 6-1 in the title decider to clinch their second Grand Slam.
US Open 2014 mixed doubles
Her third mixed doubles title at the Slams was at the 2014 US Open, partnering Brazilian player Bruno Soares.
The top seeded duo lived up to their billing and beat USA’s Abigail Spears and Mexico’s Santiago Gonzalez in a final which went into a tie breaker.
Doubles treble with Martina Hingis
In 2015 Sania Mirza partnered up with Swiss legend Martina Hingis, with whom she won three back-to-back Grand Slam doubles titles.
Labelled Santina by fans, the duo’s first Grand Slam success came at Wimbledon 2015. The duo marched into the final against the Russian pairing of Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina – Sania Mirza’s former partner – without dropping a single set.
The final, however, was a closely fought one, with Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis persevering to register a tight three-set victory.
The duo continued in the same vein of form and seemed almost unstoppable over the course of the next few months as they picked up the US Open 2015 title before starting off 2016 with the Australian Open triumph – marking a hat-trick of Grand Slams.
“From the start we hit it off. Our games complement each other,” Martina Hingis had noted in an interview during their Santina days.
Sania Mirza's rankings in singles and doubles
A very capable singles player during the first half of her career, recurring bouts with a wrist injury prompted her to focus only on doubles from 2013.
Before that, however, Sania Mirza won the Hyderabad Open in 2005 marking the first WTA singles title by an Indian tennis player.
Mid 2007 saw her climb to a career-high 27th in the WTA Singles Rankings, which, till date, stands as the best tennis ranking held by an Indian in singles.
In the doubles front, Sania Mirza rose to No. 1 in the WTA Doubles Rankings in April 2015, becoming the first Indian in history to reach the summit. Even on the ATP stage, only Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi have reached No. 1 in doubles standings.
The Indian ace even sustained her top spot for almost 21 months before finally dropping down in January 2017.
She has won 42 WTA doubles titles till date.
Sania Mirza at the Olympics
Representing and winning a medal for the country is a dream every Olympic athlete fosters and Sania Mirza is no different.
“To see the national flag go up while standing on the (Olympic) podium is the proudest moment in an athlete's life and I will want to experience that for myself,” she says.
The Indian tennis star is a four-time Olympian. Sania Mirza participated in her debut Games at Beijing 2008. In her first round singles outing, the Indian had to retire in the second set against Czech opponent Iveta Benesova due to a wrist injury. In the doubles event, she and her partner Sunitha Rao bowed out in the second round.
At the 2012 London Olympics, Sania Mirza and her doubles partner Rushmi Chakravarthi couldn’t make it past the first round after going down against Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chia-jung and Hsieh Su-wei. She, however, did better in the mixed doubles, reaching the quarter-finals alongside Leander Paes before going down to eventual gold medallists Victoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi.
In her third Olympic venture at Rio 2016, Sania Mirza partnered Rohan Bopanna in mixed doubles to go one better, reaching the semi-finals. The duo heartbreakingly lost out to Czech pairing of Lucie Hradecka and Radek Stepanek in the bronze medal match to miss out on a podium finish.
In women’s doubles event, Sania Mirza and her partner Prarthana Thombare exited the tournament in the first round after a closely-fought loss to China’s Zhang Shuai and Peng Shuai.
At the Tokyo Olympics, Sania Mirza and her doubles partner Ankita Raina didn't make it beyond the opening round.
Asian Games and Commonwealth Games medals
Sania Mirza has a staggering eight medals at the Asian Games, bagging at least one in each of the editions she took part in.
Her first big achievement representing India at a big global event, perhaps, came in the 2002 Asian Games. The then 15-year-old paired up with Leander Paes to win bronze in the mixed doubles event.
It got better for her in the next edition, as she clinched gold in mixed doubles, and silvers in women’s doubles and the team event at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha.
In Guangzhou, she clinched bronze in women’s singles and added a silver from the mixed doubles event and at the Incheon Asian Games in 2014, she won gold in mixed doubles again and capped it off with a silver in the women’s doubles.
She missed the 2018 edition due to her pregnancy.
Sania Mirza also represented India at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The second seed won silver in the women’s singles event and partnered Rushmi Chakravarthi to win bronze in women’s doubles.
She also has multiple medals at the Afro Asian Games.
Sania Mirza Fed Cup record for India
Sania Mirza has been in the Indian Fed Cup team (now called the Billie Jean King Cup) in 11 editions since 2003 and sports an impressive 27 wins 10 losses record in the prestigious tournament.
The Indian ace also played a key role during the Fed Cup 2020, winning three must-win ties, to help the Indian eves reach the playoff stage of the tournament for the first time in the nation’s history.
She, in fact, achieved the feat after coming back from her maternity break post the birth of her son Izhaan Mirza Malik. Sania Mirza is married to former Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik and Izhaan is their first child.
Arjuna Award, Padma Shri and other national awards
Due to her accomplishments in tennis, Sania Mirza has also been conferred with the Arjuna Award in 2004, Padma Shri in 2006, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna (now called the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award) in 2015 and the Padma Bhushan in 2016.
She has also featured in BBC’s list of 100 most inspiring women in the world in 2015.