Tennis legend Sania Mirza plays her farewell match at the Lal Bahadur Tennis Stadium in Hyderabad
Hyderabad: Sania Mirza bid goodbye to her illustrious sports career with an exhibition match featuring Rohan Bopanna, Yuvraj Singh, and her “best friend” Bethanie Mettek Sands on 5 March in Hyderabad. The match was played at the Lal Bahadur Tennis Stadium where Sania had signalled her arrival on the big stage with a historic WTA singles title triumph nearly two decades ago.
Sania announced her retirement from tennis recently at the Dubai Tennis Championships.
Sania Mirza plays her farewell match at Lal Bahadur Tennis Stadium in Hyderabad
Eminent figures like Union law minister Kiren Rijiju, and former India cricket team captain Mohammad Azharuddin attended the exhibition games. Her family members and friends were also present at the venue.
Union law minister Kiren Rijiju, and former cricketer Yuvaraj Singh at the farewell match of Sania Mirza
Sania was met by enthusiastic supporters, which included renowned celebrities, as she arrived at the location in a sleek red sedan. Sania, who became emotional during her departure address, said that playing for the country for 20 years has been the biggest honour for her.
On the occasion, the six-time Grand Slam winner (three in women’s doubles and as many in mixed doubles) played two mixed doubles exhibition matches and won both.
The arena where she had won some memorable titles was decked up in a celebratory mood with banners that read “Celebrating the Legacy of Sania Mirza.” Fans carried signs that read “Thank you for the memories, Sania” and “We shall miss you, Sania.” As she entered the court, spectators, mostly schoolchildren, applauded.
Fans of Sania Mirza hold memorable titles during her farewell match
Fans taking autograph from Sania Mirza during her farewell match
“I am so excited to play my last match in front of you all,” Sania said ahead of the match.
Mr. Rijiju, who was formerly the Union sports minister, Telangana minister K.T. Rama Rao, and former cricketer Azharuddin were among the guests present at the venue. Actor Dulquer also attended Sania’s farewell match. After the match, Sania was felicitated by KTR and Telangana sports minister V. Srinivas Goud.
IT Minister KTR, and Actor Dulquer Salmaan at the farewell match of Sania Mirza
Sania Mirza is an inspiration: Rijiju
“I have come to Hyderabad for Sania Mirza’s send-off, her farewell match. I am delighted to see so many people turning up for this. Sania Mirza is an inspiration not just for Indian tennis but for Indian sports too. When I was the sports minister, I used to be in touch with Sania. I wish her all the very best for her future endeavours,” said Mr. Rijiju.
Sania Mirza along with Union law minister Kiren Rijiju during her farewell match in Hyderabad
“The greatest honour for me has been to play for my nation for 20 years. Every athlete’s dream is to represent their country at the highest level possible. I was able to do it,” Sania said, thanking everyone for their help on her journey.
Sania became tearful as admirers applauded her. “These are extremely happy tears. It could not have been a nicer send-off,” she said. Notwithstanding her retirement, she plans to be involved in tennis and sports in India and Telangana, she said.
She wanted “many, many Sanias” to appear in the country.
She made the correct decision: Azharuddin
Sania’s younger sister Anam’s father-in-law and cricket sensation Azharuddin commended her commitment to tennis. “I believe we are bidding Sania farewell today. What she has done for women in India and around the world is an example, in my opinion. I wish her the best,” Azharuddin told reporters.
“I know many would like to see her play more. But every career must come to an end. I believe she made the correct decision,” he stated.