Sania Mirza ends her career where it started

With ‘happy tears’, Indian tennis legend Sania Mirza on Sunday ended her pioneering journey as a player at the place where it all began.

Playing in exhibition matches featuring Rohan Bhopana, Yuvraj Singh and her close friend Bethany Mitek-Sands, Sania finally said goodbye to her illustrious career at the Lal Bahadur Tennis Court, the place where she marked her arrival on the big stage with a historic event. The WTA singles title has been reigning for nearly two decades.

The exhibition matches were watched by dignitaries, including Union Law Minister Kiren Rigo and former India cricket captain Mohammad Azharuddin.

After arriving at the venue in a luxurious red car, the 36-year-old Sanya was greeted by fans who also included dignitaries.

Hyderabad: Tennis star Sania Mirza takes a selfie with players Rohan Bopanna, Kara Black, Bethany Matic and others during her farewell at Lal Bahadur Stadium in Hyderabad, Sunday, March 5, 2023. Sania announced her retirement from professional tennis earlier this month. at the Dubai Tennis Championships. (PTI image) (PTI03_05_2023_000050A) *** local caption ***

Turning emotional while giving her farewell speech, Sanya said her greatest honor has been playing for the country for 20 years.

On this occasion, the six-time Grand Slam winner (three in women’s doubles and as many as mixed doubles) played two mixed doubles exhibition matches and won both of them.

The venue, where she won some memorable titles, wore a festive look with banners like ‘Celebrating Sania Mirza’s Legacy’.

Some fans carried signs reading “Thank you for the memories” and “We will miss you, Sanya”.

The spectators, mostly schoolchildren, cheered as she entered the stadium.

“I’m so excited to play my last game in front of all of you,” she said, speaking before the match.

Former Union Sports Minister Reju, Telangana Minister KT Rama Rao, Azharuddin and Yuvraj were among the guests present at the venue.

Hyderabad: Tennis star Sania Mirza bids farewell at Lal Bahadur Stadium, Hyderabad, Sunday, March 5, 2023. Sania announced her retirement from professional tennis earlier this month at the Dubai Tennis Championships. (PTI Image) (PTI03_05_2023_000051B)

“I have come to Hyderabad for Sania Mirza’s farewell, her farewell match. I am glad to see so many people turn up for this. Sania Mirza is an inspiration not only to Indian tennis but to Indian sports as well.

“When I was Minister of Sports I kept in touch with Sania. I wish her all the best in her future endeavours.” Her family and friends were also present at the venue.

After the match, Sania was congratulated by Rama Rao and the Sports Minister of Telangana in Srinivas Goode.

“My greatest honor has been to play for my country for 20 years. Every athlete’s dream is to represent their country at the highest level. I have been able to do it,” said Sania, who thanked everyone for their support on her journey.

When fans cheered her on, Sania turned emotional.

“These are very happy tears. I couldn’t have asked for a better farewell,” she said.

Although she may have retired, she will be a part of tennis and sports in India and in Telangana, she said.

She hoped that “many, many sannyas” would appear in the country.

Azhar El-Din, whose son married Sania’s younger sister Anam, praised her contribution to tennis.

“I think today we say a big goodbye to Sania. I think what she has done for women’s tennis in India and all over the world is an example. I wish her all the best,” Azharuddin told reporters.

“I know people want her to continue playing more. But every career has to end. I think she made the right decision.

Many fans said they were saddened by Sania’s retirement from professional tennis.

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