CHARLESTON, SC, USA - After back-to-back Premier Mandatory-level title runs alongside Martina Hingis in Indian Wells and Miami, Sania Mirza goes into Charleston with something big at stake - something very, very big. She will become the new doubles World No.1 if she and Hingis win the title.
"When you start off as kids holding a tennis racquet, you dream of being No.1 in the world," Mirza said. "That's a dream for every person; very few get there. I'm obviously very, very close. Not that I'm not aware - I'm human and every match I play, of course I think about it and hope that it happens.
"Our thing was if we played the final or won in Miami, we'd play Charleston, and that's what we're doing. Obviously we're in the hunt for No.1, of course. It's something I've dreamt of all my life."
Mirza is currently ranked No.3 on the WTA Doubles Rankings behind co-No.1s Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, who recently announced the end of their partnership. Hingis, a former No.1 who's right behind her at No.4, knows a thing or two about dealing with pressure - and she says there's none.
"We're going to play the whole year together," Hingis commented. "It's great if it happens this week, but sooner or later hopefully it's going to happen. So it's really just a question of time, hopefully."
"It's not like we're not thinking about it," Mirza said. "I mean, you're human, and you want to get to No.1. When you're No.5, it's not as close as when you're No.3 or No.2. That's where I am today. She's very close as well, right behind me. But hopefully we can both get there as a team, to be honest."
Mirza has had achieved a lot of firsts for her native India throughout her career - first Indian to win a WTA title, first Indian woman to reach the third round of a Grand Slam, then the first to reach the fourth round, first Indian woman to surpass $1 million in career prize money and first Indian woman to win a Grand Slam title of any kind (she has now captured three Grand Slam mixed doubles titles).
If Hingis and Mirza win Charleston this week and Mirza were to ascend to No.1, she wouldn't be done there either - the Indian trailblazer still has one more dream she's hoping to achieve soon.
"I have two dreams: win a women's doubles Grand Slam and get to No.1," Mirza said.
"But I don't want to jinx it," she added. "I'm happy the way I have been playing recently. The last two and a half years have been really good for me, and hopefully it will continue like that this year."