While the 31-year-old Mirza will not be at the Open this year due to the fact that she and her cricket player husband Shoaib Malik are expecting their first child in October, she has a long history of dazzling fans on the New York stage. As a teenager in 2003, she reached the semifinals of the U.S. Open Girls Doubles tournament playing alongside fellow Indian tennis player Sanaa Bhambri.
Her success as a teen caught the eyes of officials on the tour and journalists early on. The Women’s Tennis Association would name her the Newcomer of the Year in 2005 after her she won the Hyderabad Open, a victory that was particularly sweet because it took place in her hometown. The following years saw her make inroads as a singles player, but she eventually discovered that her greatest success would come in doubles.
Mirza’s biggest accomplishment at the U.S. Open came in 2015, when she and partner Martina Hingis took home the title in women’s doubles, winning 6-3, 6-3 against Casey Dellacqua and Yaroslava Shvedova. The pair had also won the Wimbledon doubles title earlier that summer.
— YAS Ministry (@YASMinistry) September 14, 2015
As she has throughout her career, Mirza told the press after her U.S. Open that she hoped the women of India in particular would draw inspiration from her success.
“Grand Slams mean a lot, but obviously being a woman and being the first one to be able to achieve everything that I’m achieving is amazing for, not just India, for Indian women, but for Indian sports, for women to pick up sports in the country and that side of the world,” she said. “So I hope they’re proud.”
Mirza and Hingis would go on to also win the Australian Open in early 2016, which extended their Grand Slam winning streak to three championships in a row.
Mirza is also currently serving as a UN Goodwill Ambassador for South Asia. In recent years, Mirza has been outspoken about the need to encourage more Indian girls to participate in sports. In this in-depth, 2015 interactive feature by the New York Times, the paper noted that the first courts she learned to play tennis on in Hyderabad were often made of cow dung.
Her father Imran told the paper that Sania’s passion and talent for tennis were apparent early on. “I think she was very special from the day she picked up the racket when she was six years old,” he told the paper. “We thought that six was too early for someone to start off in sport. Yet about six months later after she picked up the racket, the coach called me up and said, ‘You have to take a look at her, she’s amazing.”