Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis had found themselves on the opposite sides of the table at the Qatar Total Open, in February. While the Swiss veteran, then partnering Flavia Pennetta, faltered in the first round, Mirza and her doubles partner from Chinese Taipei, Su-Wei Hsieh ended up as losing finalists.
Once the tournament ended, Mirza and Hingis decided to have a casual training session together. However, the singular gathering on the practice courts in Doha proved to be one that shaped out the rest of their season —which saw them peak the world rankings among women’s doubles. “It just clicked between us,” Hingis states.
The first impression Hingis had of her Indian counterpart was put in place during the training programme in Doha. “You could see that she was a thorough professional. And she was a very optimistic player. If you’re feeling down, she comes and lifts you up. That spirit just helped our friendship grow,” explains the 35-year-old. Just as sudden was their decision to partner each other for subsequent events, equally rapid was their rise.
The pair stormed through the first 20 sets they contested in, picking up the doubles title at Indian Wells and the Miami Open in the process. Overall they went on to win a total of nine titles together in the season, a tally which included success at Wimbledon and the US Open Grand Slams.
The friendship they garnered off court spilt over onto their prowess on the Association of Tennis Players (ATP) circuit, a result of the seamless tactics the pair brought into play. In Hingis, Mirza had found the perfect foil for her own powerful baseline play. The former Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open singles winner was to play the attacking role near the nets while Mirza contributed with her resilient baseline play.
“Sania was already a great player, strong at the baseline. I was good at the baseline too but I was also good at the nets. My quality has always been that I can adjust to my partners’ need, so it was easy for me to work at the nets,” says Hingis.
With the fluid and efficient strategy firmly in place, Mirza’s customary baseline game steadily added a dimension that saw her approach the net more often than she had demonstrated earlier. All of a sudden there was more confidence in the way the 29-year-old went for the volleys. “She’s been getting confident coming up to the net. I’ve been giving her the opportunity for it by setting her to come up,” Hingis states.
Barely a month since the duo captured their ninth title together this season, at the WTA Finals in Singapore, the world’s number one women’s doubles pair ended their season with a 22-match winning run, a streak that stretches back to six tournaments.
In the off-season though, the pair is working separately. While Mirza will feature in the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), Hingis is all set to turn out for the second season of the Champions Tennis League (CTL).
Interestingly enough, Hingis was the only player in the CTL to have been retained by a franchise for the second campaign. Accordingly, and coincidentally, she will turn out for Mirza’s hometown-based team, the Hyderabad Aces.
“It’ll be interesting to get to meet her when we go there,” she concludes.