Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna will play in the mixed doubles final of the Australian Open. Meraki Sport & Entertainment/Twitter
Melbourne: Sania Mirza has been a pioneer in the Indian women’s game for over a decade and a half. At a time when Indian women received very little coverage and support, Mirza changed things around.
Besides playing an important role in the development of women’s tennis in the country, she also worked towards changing the archaic social mindset. One of them is a return to professional sports for a mother after the birth of her son Izaan.
Things have changed over the years with many female athletes becoming household names. 2016 Rio Olympics silver medalist and 2020 Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist PV Sindhu, for instance, was ranked 12th.m Listed by Forbes as the world’s highest paid female athletes.
The latest shot in the arm has come in the growth of women’s sports in India BCCI announces five Women’s Premier League (WPL) franchises A combined expenditure of ₹ 4,669.99 crore was incurred.
“We have many male cricket stars in the world. Also having female stars is a thing, that is actually the way forward. I was pleasantly surprised. We now have some huge stars in women’s cricket who are carrying that torch,” she said later Reaching the mixed doubles final of the Australian OpenWednesday with Rohan Bopanna.
Mirza, playing her last Grand Slam of a brilliant career, added: “For me, I think we’ve talked about it so much, about taking women’s sport forward, especially in our part of the world where we still don’t think of sport as a career. The most natural course they choose is for young girls, especially parents.”
“It’s amazing that maybe things like this help parents encourage their young daughters to take up sports as a career. It’s not just, ‘Oh, my God, what are you doing and playing like boys’? You can actually say, ‘You’re playing like a girl.’
Mirza will be aiming for a third doubles title in his sixth final at the Australian Open on Friday. The 36-year-old called her first appearance at Melbourne Park in 2008 and facing Serena Williams in 2005 as her most memorable moments.
“For me, even though I’ve had so much success here, I think I’m in my fifth or sixth final here overall, won a couple of times, the most special memory I have is when I was playing against Serena. The 18-year-old, even though I lost that match, was blown off the court,” she said of the 2005 contest where she lost 1-6, 4-6 to eventual champion Williams.
First mixed doubles final (a major) for Rohan Bopanna in 2018 (with Taima Babos) and Sania Mirza in 2017 (with Ivan Dodig)#aopen
— Tanuj Lakhina (@tanujlakhina) January 25, 2023
“Honestly, that was (when) my belief was established that this is where I belong and this is where I want to be. Even though Serena won the tournament that year, for me it convinced me that as a young Indian girl, my dream of playing in the Slams, trying and winning, happened for me in ’05. .
“Even though I won a lot more matches after that, there are some great matches, winning the Slam, that memory… I get goosebumps when I talk about it. It was an incredible memory for me. It was something that was probably the most special, even though I lost,” he added.
‘Broadcasting of matches inspires people’
Bopanna, who first partnered with Mirza at the Nationals at the age of 14, said it was important to keep the flag flying and ensure Indian players got exposure regardless of the format.
This is the first time since 2017 that no Indian singles player – male or female – is in a major draw Bopanna, however, urged that this run might inspire someone in the country to pick up a racket.
“I think everyone always asks us why there are no singles players, only doubles players. I see that at least we still have someone flying the flag in this tournament. This is the most important part,” says 42-year-old Bopanna.
“I think whenever one of us plays in India, it’s the only way to inspire someone. I think any sport you watch and if you see your countrymen participating in that sport, that’s a real inspiration. It doesn’t matter whether it is singles, doubles, mixed doubles or anything else. I think in any sport people come out and support us for so many years. It has been a fantastic support.
“It’s amazing that we also get energy from it. Every time we play, I feel, somebody gets inspired. I know Sania has been doing this for so long. Many girls chose tennis for Sania’s brilliant career.
He added, “Every time 1% goes up, I think it’s a big win for the country.”