MELBOURNE, Australia -- Former doubles No.1 Sania Mirza closed out her Grand Slam career on Friday at the Australian Open. Bidding to win her seventh and final major title, Mirza and mixed doubles partner Rohan Bopanna bowed out to Luisa Stefani and Rafael Matos in the mixed doubles final.
In the end, it wasn't the fairytale finish Sania Mirza dreamed of, but the Indian trailblazer is happy that she is closing out her career on her own terms.
"For me, whether I win six Grand Slams or seven Grand Slams, that wasn't going to change much in my life, right? Sure, on the record books maybe another Slam, but for me, it's more important how I'm doing it," Mirza said.
"Today I'm here, sitting after a Grand Slam final, knowing that I still have the level to make it to a Grand Slam final. I'm choosing to say that I want other things, and that is very important for me. I feel like after you have a child, especially, winning and losing tennis matches, it really puts things into perspective of how small or big that is."
Mirza is set to play two more tournaments on the Hologic WTA Tour next month, first at the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open with Bethanie Mattek-Sands and then her final tournament at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships with Madison Keys.
"I want to finish playing with two of my best friends," Mirza said.
Mirza turned pro in 2003 and built a career across the singles and doubles circuits over her 20-year career. She became the first Indian woman to win a WTA singles title when she won her hometown tournament, the 2005 Hyderabad Open, and was voted WTA Newcomer of the Year that season.
She reached a career-high singles ranking of No.27 in 2007 before transitioning full-time to the doubles circuit. She won her first major title at the Australian Open in 2009, capturing the mixed title with Mahesh Bhupathi. She went on to win mixed doubles at the 2012 French Open and 2014 US Open.
In 2015, Mirza joined forces with Martina Hingis to form one of the most formidable and successful teams of the past decade. The duo won three straight majors, capturing the titles at 2015 Wimbledon, 2015 US Open, and 2016 Australian Open. Mirza rose to Doubles No.1 for the first time in April 2015, becoming the first Indian woman to hold the No.1 ranking on the WTA Tour.
"I don't really feel relief, so to say," Mirza said. "I'm going to miss it. I'm going to miss walking on big courts, miss competing and trying to win, and, in some way, even losing, looking back on the court and fight and come back again.
"But I still feel I have a couple more tournaments and I want to play. But it's tough for me to accept in this very moment that I'm not coming back here because I have been coming here for 20 years."
Asked what advice she has for young aspiring tennis players back home in India, Mirza -- wearing a black baseball cap that read "You Can't Handle the Truth" -- kept her advice simple and strong:
"Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something, even if nobody else has done it before," she said.
"People thought we were a completely crazy family to have a dream -- forget winning Grand Slams -- but even to play them was something that was not heard of. This young girl from Hyderabad who went on the court in Nizam Club playing on a cow dung court, I don't blame them for laughing at us.
"But we had a dream and we were able to achieve it as a family. I just want kids to know that if you put your heart and soul in something, you can do it, no matter how many odds are stacked up against you. You've got to try. You'll never know until you try.
"I'm really proud of what we have been able to do with the kind of facilities and the kind of infrastructure that we were with and the kind of things that we came with 30 years ago."