SINGAPORE - Winning 40 titles with 15 different partners, Sania Mirza has become the most dominant doubles player of her generation.
Her impressive resume, earned through resilience and reinvention, helped her ascend to No.1 last spring. India's favorite daughter has held onto it ever since, heading into the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presentedby SC Global to begin her 81st consecutive week atop the WTA doubles rankings as a two-time defending champion - with Cara Black in 2014 and Martina Hingis in 2015.
A Co-No.1 with Hingis at the start of the season, Mirza fell one major shy of the Non-Calendar Year Grand Slam (winning last year's Wimbledon and US Open, along with this year's Australian Open), and rode a 41-match winning streak from Flushing to February, the longest since 1990.
She survived the Santina Split with the No.1 ranking - and a burgeoning partnership with Barbora Strycova - intact, but while she battled primarily with the Swiss Miss for the top spot through the fall, three more challengers have ermerged since the start of the Asian Swing, all of whom have a chance of clinching the Year-End No.1 with a good run in Singapore.
In the best position to usurp Mirza will be Singapore's top seeds and reigning Roland Garros champions, Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic. The first all-French team to win their home Slam since 1971, the duo withstood a disappointing week at the Olympic tennis event - the initial impetus for their formation - to string together strong runs at the US Open and China Open.
Each time, they fell in the final to Lucie Safarova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, the latter of whom is the last of those capable of wresting No.1 from Mirza. Mattek-Sands won three of the four Premier Mandatory events (two with Safarova), and put on an emotional Gold medal performance in mixed doubles, defeating Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram alongside Jack Sock.
The WTA Finals doubles field returns to its single-elimination knock-out format after an identical round-robin structure in 2015. A lot will depend on the draw - which will take place on Tuesday evening - but as it stands, Garcia and Mladenovic need to finish one round better than Mirza, who will reunite with Hingis for the first time since the Rogers Cup in August, while Mattek-Sands will need to win the title with Safarova.
Even then, how the French and American finish will also impact each other's causes as the final rankings begin to form.