Dubai: Indian tennis sensation Sania Mirza has set a target of breaking into the top-100 of the doubles before the French Open starts in May.
Mirza and French playing partner Caroline Garcia were handed a wild card by tournament organisers with the Indo-French pair coming good in their opening round before caving in 6-4, 6-2 against fifth seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Saisai Zheng at this week’s Dubai Duty Free Women’s Open late on Wednesday.
Mirza has long been the mainstay of women’s tennis in India – drawing both adulation and criticism for her various stands on issues. But the Mumbai-born girl has shunned all and gone about doing all her talking on court. She scaled a career high No.27 in the singles at the end of August 2007, and then went on to become the world number one in doubles in April 2015 – a position she enjoyed till as recently as 2017 – with former world number and Grand Slam champion Martina Hingis as her partner.
Married to famed Pakistan cricketer Shoaib Malik, the 33-year-old Indian then opted to ease into starting a family, and their son Izhaan Mirza Malik was born in October 2018.
Following more than two years off the WTA, Mirza made a strong return to the professional circuit last month, where she teamed up with Ukraine’s Nadiia Kitchenok to beat China’s Peng Shui and Zhang Shui to win the women’s doubles title at the Hobart International.
However, after that a calf muscle injury forced Sania to withdraw from her first round match at the Australian Open while trailing 2-6, 0-1 against the Chinese pair of Han Xinyun and Zhu Lin.
Mirza has now been slowly building up her fitness and her game with next week’s Qatar Open her next immediate assignment. “After Doha, it will be Indian Wells [March 9-22] and Miami Open [March 23-April 5]. Of course, a lot has to do with where I can use my special ranking and where I can get wild cards as well,” Mirza told Gulf News after Wednesday’s second-round loss.
“The main idea would be to get a better ranking from now on. The goal is to get to top-100 by the French Open. And if that can happen, then it would be great. Then I can use my special ranking only for the big ones. So right now, I just have to wait and see."
She was not too severe on herself after the second round loss on Wednesday. “Dubai has always been very good to me. It is my second home. We have always been here whenever we can. We live here half and half and it’s always nice to play here. It’s nicer to come to a tournament and play from home, rather than from a hotel room,” Mirza said.