India’s Sania Mirza began her quest to complete a career Grand Slam this week at the most “special” of all tournaments, Wimbledon.
The number one ranked doubles star hopes the dream pairing with Swiss ace Martina Hingis can finally end her SW19 hoodoo and claim the only major championship that has eluded her.
Mirza, who already has mixed doubles victories at the Australian (2009), French (2012) and US Open (2014), is in pole position to achieve the feat after winning three titles with Hingis this year.
The duo were triumphant in Indian Wells, Miami and Charleston and runners-up in Rome to earn top seed status at the third Slam of the year.
Mirza won the Wimbledon junior title back in 2003, but has never been past the semi-final stage since, a statistic she is determined to change over the next couple of weeks.
“It’s a great honour to be ranked number one and to be the top seed at Wimbledon. It’s a reflection of the years of hard work that has gone into getting to this position,” she said last week.
“However once on court, rankings or seedings doesn’t matter as everyone is gunning for you. There are no easy matches at this level.
“Since the time I started playing tennis, I dreamed of playing at Wimbledon. Winning the junior title here is a memory that will stay with me forever.
“The lush green grass courts, traditions and history add a special aura to Wimbledon, and are some of the things that make it special.”
Despite their billing, Mirza and Hingis face a tough route to a potential final. Their half of the draw includes Australian and French Open champions Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova, and French Open runners-up Yaroslava Shvedova and Casey Dellacqua.
It also features Australian Open finalists Jie Zheng and Chan Yung-Chan and the Williams sisters too. Mirza, though, is staying positive.
She said: “After a first round loss on grass with a new partner in Birmingham (Dellacqua), Martina and I had a decent run in Eastbourne (reaching the semi-finals). So we are improving on grass.
“Martina has won here in singles and doubles, and has great memories. I’ve reached the women’s doubles semi-finals. In the singles, I played some memorable matches too, losing to US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova on centre court.”
Hingis is a future Hall of Famer on the women’s circuit, having won five singles Grand Slam crowns and 11 combined major doubles prizes.
“We complement each other’s games,” Mirza said of the partnership. “When I’m hitting the ball big at the back and she’s at the net, it’s tough for the other team to find space. That’s our biggest strength. The second thing is she knows how to win.”
In a recent interview with Wimbledon.org, Mirza revealed what makes the showpiece so great.
“Even though all the Grand Slams are equal, Wimbledon is special,” she said. “It has its own charm because of the green grass, the white clothes and the strawberries and cream.
“I feel blessed to have been able to play there.When I played on centre court against Kuznetsova, it was huge. I always dreamed of that.”
When asked what the most important shot is in London, she replied: “The slice really does work; it’s something the juniors don’t work on. Coaches thought we were fooling around if we played one. It’s important as it keeps the ball low.”
Describing the dedicated crowds as “sophisticated, yet loud,” Mirza had this piece of sensible advice for any spectator: “Carry an umbrella, a jacket and some sunscreen. Then you’re okay for all types of weather.”
And what about Wimbledon’s favourite strawberries and cream? How many bowls would she expect to eat during the championships? “Not so many, but I do catch up after I’m done,” she said.
“If I had too many during the tournament, I wouldn’t be able to move on the court!”