WTA Finals: Will Sania Mirza's reunion with Martina Hingis help her retain world No 1 ranking?
Sania Mirza's supremacy as the world number one in the women's doubles is under threat at the WTA Finals. Here's what she needs to do to retain her ranking.
Indian tennis ace Sania Mirza recently celebrated 80 consecutive weeks as the world number one in women's doubles. Heading into the WTA Finals in Singapore, she has been reigning the rankings for 81 weeks. But her supremacy over the women's doubles tennis is under threat at the season-ending championships.
Mirza is the two-time defending champion, having won the title with Martina Hingis in 2015 and Cara Black in 2014. The 'SanTina' duo, as Mirza and Hingis are fondly called, split in August but have reunited one last time to defend their title in Singapore. They won nine titles, including three Grand Slams: 2015 Wimbledon, 2015 US Open and 2016 Australian Open. They stitched together an incredible 41-match winning streak, which ended this year at Doha.
However, their results towards the end of their partnership were not encouraging. After winning four titles at the start of the season, they won only one more despite three finals appearances. They also failed to defend their Wimbledon crown. Since their split, Mirza has found a successful partner in Barbora Strycova, while Hingis has been playing with Coco Vandeweghe. It's been three months since they played together, and chances are they might not fire on all cylinders from the word go.
But Mirza has rubbished suggestions of any rustiness and is confident that they will find form. "We deliberately got here a few days earlier, because we wanted to practice and feel that chemistry again, and it has been really good," she said. "We have been practising together and it's been going really well. We are looking forward to playing together, the chemistry doesn't really go anywhere, if you have it you just have it," the world number one told ESPN.
The WTA Finals for doubles is a knock-out competition featuring the the top eight teams in the world playing knockouts based on a draw, unlike in singles, where two round-robin groups are held to determine the four semi-finalists.
Top seeds Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic have the best chance of usurping Mirza-Hingis. The French duo won Roland Garros this year, and reached the final of the US Open. Garcia-Mladenovic on Thursday defeated No 8 seeds Karolina Pliskova and Julia Goerges convincingly 6-4, 6-2 to advance to the semi-finals. To end the season on top, Garcia-Mladenovic need to finish one round better than Mirza, who plays her quarter-final match on Friday with Hingis. Mirza-Hingis take on Hao-Ching and Yung-Jan Chan in their opening match.
American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who plays with Lucie Safarova, also has a shot at wresting the No 1 ranking from Mirza. Team Bucie, their nickname on the tour, are riding on a 16-match winning streak, winning titles at the US Open and Wuhan Open. Mattek-Sands also won the gold medal in mixed doubles at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, along with Jack Sock. Seeded third with Safarova, Mattek-Sands will have to win the title to take world No 1 spot.
In their opening round, the American-Czech duo emerged victorious after a hard-fought 7-5, 6-7(6), 10-2 battle against No 7 seeds Timea Babos and Yaroslava Shvedova. Mattek-Sands/Safarova are next up against Garcia/Mladenovic in the semi-finals.
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