No Serena, No Federer — Sania Mirza reacts to legends' joining the retirement club
Having already announced her plans to retire from tennis, Indian tennis queen Sania Mirza reflected on how 'all good things must come to an end' with Roger Federer and Serena Williams also calling it a day.
In retrospect, it does seem that perhaps Sania Mirza had some inkling about how 2022 is going to be the year when the legends started retiring as she set the mood right away in January by announcing her farewell to the sport as well, during the Australian Open.
Fast forward and we are in September, and the farewell season has never felt this jittery and real as like Sania soon, Roger Federer and Serena Williams will also be joining the retirement club.
Synonymous to tennis itself over the past two decades, the names of Serena Williams and Roger Federer have almost always appeared in conjunction - both 41, both GOATs at their game, it only seems like poetic justice that they would choose to retire from professional tennis in the same month as each other.
"Serena and Roger have been colossal ambassadors of the game for several years and will be sorely missed by the spectators and fellow tennis players, who were fortunate to have played in their era," Sania Mirza tells The Bridge, grateful to have been able to share the same stage, play the same sport, at the same time, as Roger and Serena - the two players she'd pick to be her ideal doubles partner any day.
Sania, who took the difficult call of saying goodbye to tennis earlier this year as well, was originally planning to play the whole of the 2022 season and the US Open would have also been her final Grand Slam appearance - but an untimely injury has brought a halt to such plans and Mirza's decision to retire, though final, has been postponed, for now.
Sania Mirza's connect with Roger and Serena
Mirza, a 6-time Grand Slam champion and a former World No. 1 had a special tie with both Serena Williams and Roger Federer, both playing their quiet roles in shaping her into the seasoned player she is today.
Just about when Mirza had started her professional tennis career and was riding the high of winning the junior Wimbledon doubles title in 2003 and focussing on her singles career as well, she happened to run into the American great in the third round of the Australian Open in 2005.
"I was seeing Serena Williams for the first time. And I was to compete against her. That gave me a different level of confidence, to compete against the best and be one of the best," Mirza had recalled, during a webinar hosted by the All India Tennis Association (AITA).
At the very beginning of her career, that one meeting served as a huge boost of self-belief for the Indian, who walked away from the match heavily inspired.
With Federer as well, the bond has been special - especially with the two having played side by side during the International Tennis Premier League (IPTL) in 2014.
"I am lucky that I have already had the chance to play with my ideal mixed doubles partner, Roger Federer," Mirza had conveyed, right after the match, before adding how she wishes she could team up with Williams too.
But more than gushing over Federer's finesse on the court, it is the off-court personality that endeared the Swiss great to her. In her autobiography, Ace Against Odds, Mirza mentions how Roger had checked in on her after the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
"I think this is what makes Roger very, very special. Apart from being a legend, a genius and the greatest ever exponent of his craft, he remains warm, caring, accessible, untouched by fame, and a thorough gentleman," she has penned in the book.
A future sans the 'champions with abundant grace'
With Serena already playing her final match at the US Open earlier this month and Roger Federer also set for his last dance at the Laver Cup next week in London, the future of tennis already seems orphaned, yet so much better for their contributions.
"They (Roger and Serena) have enriched the game and will be missed for sure but at the end of the day, the game is bigger than the players and tennis will emerge the winner," Mirza, realistically puts forth, channelling her hope on the NextGen.
Hailing them as 'champions with abundant grace', Sania is aware of simply how difficult it is to also part ways with tennis - after having given it your all. The scare of injuries riddled with the grind of the tour, the burden of expectations and the constant travel - none of it is a cakewalk and all factors in while taking this decision to hang up the racquet - something Sania herself is experiencing first-hand.
"Of course, it's never easy to give up something that has been your life since you can remember," Mirza says.
"But all good things must come to an end and one must be grateful for having spent a good portion of one's life playing a sport that is so close to one's heart," she quickly resolves, her gratitude shining through, as she signs off.