Sania Mirza in action in Dubai
Sania Mirza in action during the Dubai Duty Tennis Championships in February this year. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: India’s tennis ace Sania Mirza will join teenagers Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada and Priska Madelyn Nugroho of Indonesia along with a handful others as nominees for February’s Fed Cup Heart Award.

Mirza and the two 17-year-olds from Canada and Indonesia will be joined by Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain, Belarussian Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia along with the regional nominees - namely Anett Kontaveit (Estonia), Eleonora Molinaro (Luxembourg), Fernanda Contreras Gomez (Mexico) and Veronica Royg (Paraguay).

Now in its 11th year, the Fed Cup Heart Award recognises those players who have represented their country with distinction, shown exceptional courage on court and demonstrated outstanding commitment to the team during Fed Cup by BNP Paribas. Each winner receives a cheque to be donated to a charity of their choice.

Online voting began for a week from Friday (May 1) with the winners scheduled to be announced on May 11.

Mirza was instrumental in India being placed runner-up to China at the Asia/Oceania Fed Cup qualifying held at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium that concluded on March 7, just before all tennis activity was shut worldwide due to the pandemic. Nugroho was the standout player as Indonesia nearly upset India on the final day.

However, it was Sania Mirza who teamed up with Ankita Raina to win the crucial doubles in three sets against Indonesia to ensure India the runner-up spot and a qualification to the next stage of Fed Cup.

The winner for February will be decided through an online voting ballot with fans being invited to select their candidates for the first four Fed Cup Heart Awards of the 2020 season.

Fernandez became her country’s No.1 player in just her second Fed Cup tie against Switzerland after Bianca Andreescu failed to recover from injury. While the Swiss would advance to the qualifiers, the 17-year-old Fernandez claimed the biggest win of her young career by beating world No.5 Belinda Bencic in Biel.

Suarez Navarro played her final Fed Cup tie in Spain as she is preparing for retirement later this season. The gutsy Spaniard began her swansong in style while claiming singles wins over Misaki Doi and Kurumi Nara to secure Spain’s place at the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Finals.

Sasnovich produced a gutsy display for Belarus in their razor-thin victory over Netherlands in The Hague. With the visitors 2-1 down heading into the fourth match, Sasnovich faced Aranxta Rus needing a win to keep the tie alive only to lose the first set 6-0.

Struggling with pain in her left wrist, she was in tears at the end of the opener but returned to take the second set 7-5 before clinching a three-set win. Sasnovich then joined Aryna Sabalenka to complete the comeback with victory in the doubles, winning the third-set tiebreak 10-8.

Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova, meanwhile, ended Serena Williams’ unbeaten in 14 previous Fed Cup singles matches when she stunned the 23-time Grand Slam champion in the fourth match of their clash in Everett Washington.