By: Shubham Ghosh
She and her millions of fans wanted her to end her illustrious career on a brilliant note. But Sania Mirza, one of the biggest tennis stars India has produced, could not give it a fairytale touch as she lost the final of the mixed doubles in Australian Open 2023, her final Grand Slam, alongside Rohan Bopanna.
The unseeded Indian pair fought their way to the title round but lost to Brazilian opponents Luisa Stefani and Rafael Mataos 6-7, 2-7 at the Rod Laver Arena on Friday (27). However, more than the defeat, it was Mirza’s emotional farewell speech that the fans would remember more.
— Sania Mirza (@MirzaSania) January 27, 2023
Had everything gone by her plans made last year at the Melbourne Park, Mirza, 36, would have been sitting at home in India watching the final. But an injury sustained last August changed her plan and the tennis ace announced earlier in January that she would call it a day at a WTA 1000 Dubai event in February, which made the ongoing Australian Open her final Grand Slam tournament.
It was at the same Melbourne Park in 2005 that Mirza had started her major career, against the legendary Serena Williams to whom she lost in the third round of the singles tournament. Four years later, Mirza lifted her maiden Grand Slam Trophy at the Lod Laver Arena when she won the mixed doubles title with former India player Mahesh Bhupathi.
Speaking after the final match on Friday, Mirza, mother of a four-year-old boy, said, “If I cry, these are happy tears. I don’t want to take away the moment from Matos-Stefani who have deserved this. I’m still going to play a couple more tournaments but my career started in Melbourne in 2005 when I played Serena as an 18-year-old. I have had the privilege of coming back here again and again and win tournaments here and play some great finals here. Rod Laver Arena has been really special life. I couldn’t think of a better arena to finish my last Grand Slam.”
Mirza finished her career with six majors, which include three women’s doubles and as many mixed doubles crowns.
“Like Rohan said, he was my first ever mixed doubles partner when I was 14 and we won the nationals. It wasn’t a same arena like this one. But that was 22 years ago. And I couldn’t think of a better partner, he is one of my best friends and best partner to finish my career with. Obviously we couldn’t get over the line but there is no better person for me to finish my Grand Slam career with. Thank you, Rohan,” she said about Bopanna, 42.
Mirza will appear in her final WTA event in the Dubai Championships which will kick off on February 19.
A number of former India sportspersons, including Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammed Azharuddin, Mithali Raj, former captain of the Indian women’s cricket team, paid tributes to Mirza over her career.