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Mixed doubles final run emotional for Sania

Mixed doubles final run emotional for Sania

Melbourne, Jan 25 (UNI) India's Sania Mirza is leaving it all on the line in the final Grand Slam of her career.
On Wednesday evening, the 36-year-old Mirza and partner Rohan Bopanna squeaked past third seeds Desirae Krawczyk and Neal Skupski 7-6(5) 6-7(5) [10-6] to reach the Australian Open 2023 mixed doubles final.
"We were playing one of the best mixed doubles teams on tour and we knew we had to come up with the best – I'm glad we were able to do that," she said after upsetting Krawczyk and Skupski, the reigning Wimbledon mixed doubles champions.
"It was an amazing match, obviously there's a lot of nerves playing my last Slam and it's so special to play with Rohan," added Mirza, who plans to retire later this year.
"Rohan was my first-ever mixed doubles partner when I was 14 years old ... we're so excited to come back here and give ourselves another chance."
The former doubles world No.1 prepared for an AO 2023 title assault by entering Adelaide International 2, but before that, hadn't played since Cincinnati in August last year due to an elbow injury.
"I'm so emotional – I'm not a crier in front of people, but I'm almost there right now," said Mirza.
"I feel the love here, for the 18 years that I've been here it feels like home for me because honestly I've got family here, I eat at home, I get so much home food and I have all these Indians coming out and supporting me. It's been quite a journey, and I'm really going to miss coming back here."
Melbourne Park has been a happy hunting ground for the Indian star. In 2009, she teamed up with Mahesh Bhupathi, and the pair were crowned mixed doubles champions, AO reported.
Seven years later, in 2016, she and Martina Hingis claimed the women's doubles title as the top seeds.
Outside Australia, Mirza earned four other Grand Slam titles: 2015 Wimbledon and 2015 US Open women's doubles with Hingis, 2012 Roland Garros mixed doubles with Bhupathi and 2014 US Open mixed doubles with Bruno Soares.
The mother-of-one has had a successful singles career, cracking the fourth round of the 2005 US Open on her Flushing Meadows debut. But Melbourne Park, where she reached the third round of singles in 2005 and 2008, holds special significance.
In 2005, her third-round conqueror was none other than eventual champion Serena Williams. Though the American legend triumphed 6-1 6-4, Mirza would not give back that experience for the world.
"The most special memory remains playing against Serena here when I was 18 years old, even though I lost that match, got blown off the court," said Mirza, when asked to select her favourite Australian Open moment.
"My belief was installed there, that this is where I belong and this is where I want to be. Even though Serena won that tournament that year, for me it made me believe that a young Indian girl, the dream that I had to play in the slams, try and win them, was something that happened that year for me.
"That memory ... I'm getting goosebumps when I talk about it."
In the mixed doubles final, Mirza and Bopanna will face Brazil's Luisa Stefani and Rafael Matos, who beat Australian wildcard pairing Olivia Gadecki and Marc Polmans 4-6 6-4 [11-9].
"It'd be an absolute dream," 42-year-old Bopanna said when asked what it would mean to clinch the winner's trophy with Mirza on Friday.
"You can't get anything better than that – to finish her last slam with a title, I think it'd be really special. We need it in India, we need to keep inspiring everyone back there," he added.
And while Mirza is aware of the occasion, she won't be overwhelmed by it.
"I play every match trying to win, whether it's my last tournament or my last slam or my first slam," she said.
"It's special in many ways, it's emotional in many ways. The approach to every match remains the same, the same professionalism, warm-up, routine, will to win – that doesn't really change."
UNI BDN RKM

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