Imran Mirza was in his familiar role, watching from the stands his famous daughter Sania Mirza and her mixed doubles partner Rohan Bopanna playing in the final of the 2023 Australian Open (they finished runners-up), in what was her last Grand Slam appearance, having announced her decision to quit the sport next month.
And, when 36-year-old Sania was in tears in her post-match comments, the mood was reflected in the Mirza family. For they knew what sacrifices were required to facilitate the evolution of the gifted, young talent into a champion.
“For me, Sania winning 2015 Wimbledon was the greatest moment. Then comes being ranked World No. 1 for 91 weeks,” the proud father told The Hindu. “It all began in 2015, when she won the WTA Hyderabad Open women’s singles. The 14 medals for India (eight in Asiads, four in Afro-Asian Games and two in Commonwealth Games are truly memorable, too,” he said.
It was a pity that after the career-best World ranking of No. 27 in women’s singles in 2007, a wrist injury forced her out of the circuit for one year in 2008, a phase which could have meant curtains for many. But, Sania, as always, proved she was a fighter and remained one.
“Beating Grand Slam champions Martina Hingis (twice), (Svetlana) Kuznetsova and (Victoria) Azarenka and beating Dinara Safina just before she became World No. 1 was equally remarkable,” Imran said.
Sania, for once, displayed emotion. “Never thought I’d get to play a Grand Slam final in front of my son. If I cry, these are just happy tears,” Sania said, tears rolling down her cheeks at the post-match briefing.
“My son needs me more than ever now and I can’t wait to live a slightly quieter and calmer life while giving him more of my time than I have been able to so far,” Sania said.
Well, the lifestyle may not be the same again for the Mirzas, who had become used to a rigorous daily schedule, taking care of every minute detail of Sania’s tennis career for close to three decades.