Sania Mirza MMS Pictures – India
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Coached by her father Imran Mirza, Sania, a Muslim, began playing tennis at the age of six, turning professional in 2003. “My mother took me to a coach, who initially refused to coach me because I was too small,” said Mirza, who is 5 ft. 7 in. tall. “After a month, he called my parents to say he’d never seen a player that good at such a young age.” WTA interview.
Mention has to be made about the role played by the Chairman of the GVK Group. When Sania sought sponsorship (financial) during the initial stages of her career, the Chairman asked Sania to play with him during his morning tennis practice. The Chairman was well-pleased with her playing skills and granted her sponsorship at a crucial time in her career.
She is the highest ranked female tennis player ever from India – ranked 31 in singles and 109 in doubles by mid-October 2005. Her original goal had been to enter the top 100 by the end of 2005, but she revised this to entering the top 50 after good performances at the beginning of the year. As of October 2005, she also ranked 2nd among Asian women. Her year-end rank in 2004 was 206.
She became the first Indian woman to reach the 4th round of a Grand Slam tournament at the 2005 US Open, defeating Mashona Washington, Maria Elena Camerin and Marion Bartoli. Having secured a wild card entry to the 2005 Australian Open Mirza reached the third round, losing to eventual champion Serena Williams.
On February 12, 2005, she became the first Indian woman to win a WTA singles title defeating Alyona Bondarenko of Ukraine in the Hyderabad Open Finals.
Sania won the Wimbledon Championships Girls’ Doubles title in 2003, teaming up with Alisa Kleybanova of Russia.