Sania Mirza makes winning return, advances to Qatar Open quarter-finals

The Indian tennis star was playing her first competitive tennis match since March last year. Her partner in the doubles tie was Andreja Klepac.

By Utathya Nag

Sania Mirza and her Slovenian doubles partner Andreja Klepac defeated the Ukrainian team of Lyudmyla Kichenok and Nadiia Kichenok in the first round of the Qatar Open 2021 on Monday.

The Indo-Slovenian pairing moved into the quarter-finals on the back of a 6-4, 6(5)-7(7), 10-5 victory at the WTA 500 tournament.

This was Sania Mirza’s first match since COVID-19 disrupted the global sporting calendar.

Mirza and Klepac suffered an early blow and were trailing 4-2 in the opening set. But the Indo-Slovanian pair rallied, breaking the Ukrainian twins successively in the seventh and ninth games. Riding on their late surge, they won the first set 6-4.

Sania and Klepac took the initiative in the second set but the Ukrainian team clawed back into the contest as they won two break points of their own.

Finding themselves 3-1 down, Sania-Klepac dug deep and mounted a comeback to make it 6-6 and forced a tie-breaker for the second set.

In the tie breaker, the Kichenok twins raced off the blocks. Despite saving four set points, Sania-Klepac lost the tie break 7-5.

With the score level at one set each, the contest was to be decided with a third set (a match tie-breaker). This time, though, Sania and Klepac didn’t falter and wrapped it up by a comfortable 10-5 margin.

Sania Mirza was last in action at the Fed Cup -- now called the Billie Jean King Cup -- where she led India to their maiden playoffs a year ago.

As global lockdowns eased, Sania Mirza was considering playing at the Australian Open in February but she tested positive for the coronavirus and had to shelve the plan.