WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen | "Imagine being No.1 at what you do in the whole planet. I've had that privilege for the last year and a half." Sania Mirza reflects on a major career milestone - and what it means for Indian women in sports.
WTA Staff

Sania Mirza celebrates her 80th consecutive week as the doubles World No.1 this week. Mirza became the first Indian woman to hold the No.1 ranking last season after winning the Volvo Car Open in Charleston with her former partner Martina Hingis.

Mirza's charge towards No.1 began in 2014. Pairing with Cara Black the duo made the semifinals or better at 10 of their 22 events and closed out their season by winning 14 of the their final 16 matches. Mirza and Black capped off their fantastic season by winning the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. The successful team parted ways after that win due to Black's desire to focus on her young family, and Mirza would win the Brisbane International title with Bethanie Mattek-Sands before finding immediate success with Martina Hingis. Team "SanTina" won their first 14 matches together, including titles at the BNP Paribas Open, Miami Open, and Volvo Car Open. With that 14th win, a 6-0, 6-4 win over Casey Dellacqua and Darija Jurak in the Charleston final, Mirza made history and fulfilled a lifelong dream.

The Indian star was finally the World No.1. The milestone was a big statement for Indian women in sports, where women athletes have yet to stand on equal ground.

"You have to believe that as a woman and as a girl you are not a weakness; you're a strength," Mirza said after winning in Charleston last year. "Anything is possible. If you put your mind to it, you put sacrifices to it, you put hard work to it, anything is possible, no matter where you're from. Even if that means you've grown up playing on courts made of cow dung. And I think for me that's women empowerment, and I hope that we get there one day where women believe that anything is possible.

Sania Mirza

"I'm used to people rolling their eyes. Tennis at that point when I was six years old, there was no clay courts; there was no hard courts. We used to play and practice on courts made out of cow s***. No jokes. I mean that was the only court that was available.

"So to come from there and pick up a tennis racquet and have the guts to say, 'OK, I am going to go and play at the highest level in the world' is against all odds. Whether I got to No.1 or not, it would have always been worth it, but now, today, to me and myself, I'm so happy to give this back to my country, to be the first ever No.1 from India.

"We all have a story. Every tennis player out there has an amazing story. And it all just seems worth it today. And no one can take it away from me."

Since taking over the top spot, Mirza has had to fend off a charge from her former doubles partner for the No.1 ranking. After Mirza and Hingis split ways this summer, the two faced off with their new partners in their very next tournament, in the final of the Western & Southern Open. If Mirza and her partner Barbora Strycova won, Mirza would hold on to No.1. If Hingis and her partner CoCo Vandeweghe won, Hingis would hold on to No.1. Mirza and Strycova rallied from behind to win their first title together, giving Mirza sole ownership of the No.1 ranking.

"I think as tennis players it means a lot to us," Mirza said in Cincinnati. "Imagine being No.1 at what you do in the whole planet. I've had that privilege for the last year and a half.

"We all want to be No.1. That's why we play tennis. Very few people get to be No.1 in the world. It's the thing as an athlete you dream as a child. To be No.1 in the world is the most amazing thing."

Photos courtesy of Getty Images