Dubai Duty Free Tennis: Sania set for emotional swansong

She will play out the final chapter of a glittering career that has seen her amass six major titles among her 43 WTA victories

by

Leslie Wilson Jr

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

 

Sania Mirza (right) with Paula Badosa during the draw ceremony on Saturday. — Supplied photo
Sania Mirza (right) with Paula Badosa during the draw ceremony on Saturday. — Supplied photo

Published: Sat 18 Feb 2023, 10:03 PM

It was 18 years ago that a fresh-faced teenager from India blew the roof of a packed centre court at the Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Stadium with a stunning, straight-sets demolition of reigning US Open Champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia.

The year was 2007 and Sania Mirza, fresh from making history as the first Indian woman to reach the third round of a Grand Slam in the Australian Open, was making her debut at Dubai’s marquee tennis tournament, as a wild-card.


It did not matter that she would eventually be beaten, what mattered was that she had emphatically announced herself as one of the game’s most exciting players.

This week, Sania will play out the final chapter of a glittering career that has seen her amass six major titles among her 43 WTA victories when she competes alongside 17 of the world's Top 20 ranked players at the 23rd Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.


Reflecting on her journey Sania said: “My first memory was playing Svetlana (Kuznetsova) over here and winning that match. The stadium was packed and it was a new experience for me to play in a stadium like that, outside of India.

“I’ve had some amazing matches here and I’ve even won a double title here. It has always felt like home for me

“A lot of amazing things started for me right here, so I can’t think of a better place to finish my career,” she added nostalgically.

However, Sania admitted that she would miss the sport that has been such a big part of her life for the past 20 years.

“I will miss the competition, the feeling of walking onto big courts and winning. It’s a feeling that is very difficult to replace in any walk of life but its important to adventure out into different things in life and spend time with my baby (Izhaan)” said Sania, who at the age of 36 is still playing some of her best tennis, having reached the mixed doubles final at last month’s Australian Open alongside Rohan Bopanna.

“My level of play was never in doubt,” she points out. “But it's very important for me to go out when I’m on the top and knowing that I’m retiring on my own terms. There’s more to life and my priorities have changed.

“At the end of the day I’m still playing well and feeling good but the amount of work that goes into my game for me to feel that way, I don’t think I have that drive anymore.”

However, Sania said that she was looking forward to one final hurrah at the iconic Dubai Tennis Stadium, not far from her home in Palm Jumeirah.

“I just want to play those extra matches and enjoy it on last time,” said Sania. “I have a lot of family and friends coming to watch me this week and it doesn’t matter winning or losing. I just was to enjoy my last moments because these moments are never going to come back.”


More news from Sports