Indian tennis legend Sania Mirza bid an emotional adieu to the sport in her hometown of Hyderabad on Sunday at the venue where it all started for her as a 16-year-old.
Mirza played her two exhibition tennis matches at the Bahadur Stadium, where she made her WTA event debut back in 2003. She was playing as a wild-card entry at Hyderabad Open. A year later, she won the doubles title at the very same event with South Africa’s Liezel Huber. It was the first title of Sania’s 44 WTA titles, out of which 43 came in doubles competition and only one in singles. She also clinched six grand slam titles and made four appearances at the summer Olympics in a decorated career that lasted for two decades.
She had earlier retired from professional tennis after Dubai Tennis Championships earlier this month.
Sania played two exhibition matches, featuring Indian tennis player Rohan Bopanna, India’s 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup winning all-rounder Yuvraj Singh and American tennis player Bethanie Mettek Sands – her ‘best friend’ and former doubles partner. She emerged victorious in both of her matches to the joy and delight of an excited home crowd. “I am so excited to play my last match in front of you all,” she said as quoted by Olympics.com.
“The greatest honour for me has been to play for my country for 20 years. It is every athlete’s dream to represent their country at the highest level. I was able to do that,” Sania Mirza told the fans in attendance.
The crowd featured plenty of youngsters and schoolchildren, who were cheering for her. The 36-year-old Sania was accompanied by her son Izhaan Mirza Malik and turned emotional on witnessing their reception.
“These are very, very happy tears. I could not have asked for a better send-off,” Sania Mirza explained.
Prominent personalities like former Indian sports minister and current Law minister Kiren Rijiju, former Indian cricket team skipper Mohammed Azharuddin, famous movie star Dulquer Salmaan and popular rapper MC Stan also attended Sania Mirza’s farewell