Saturday, February 06, 2016

'Santina' Slam on the horizon

MELBOURNE, Australia - Less than a year after World No.1 Serena Williams won a second "Serena Slam" at the 2015 Wimbledon Championships, Co-No.1 doubles team Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza are one major win away from a non-calendar year Grand Slam of their own, a "Santina Slam."

Hingis and Mirza first paired up at the BNP Paribas Open last spring, starting a 15-match winning streak that took them to titles in Indian Wells, Miami and Charleston. Now on a 36-match streak - the longest since 1990 - Santina have not lost a match since the 2015 Western & Southern Open, and have won the last three major titles in a row dating back to Wimbledon, where they recovered from a 2-5 final set deficit to defeat Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina for the first Grand Slam title as a pair.

The Indo-Swiss duo followed that up with an efficient run to the US Open title a few months later, and didn't drop a set through six matches. Capping their near-perfect season with the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global title - also without dropping a set, even more impressive at a tournament comprised solely of the Top 8 doubles teams - Hingis and Mirza began 2016 in earnest by winning titles in Brisbane and Sydney before their Australian Open victory.

"Our fairytale continues," Hingis told press after she and Mirza defeated "Silent Hs" Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, 7-6(1), 6-3. "It's amazing since winning Wimbledon. After that we only lost two more matches. It keeps going.

"It's been always great to start the year here in Australia. Like Sania said, it's a very player-friendly environment in Australia. They're very knowledgeable about tennis. They love their players. They support them. It's great to come out here and have this mood, like this tennis mood, the environment gives you, and the setting.

"Whether it's Rod Laver Arena or Margaret Court it's just a cozy atmosphere, and it's so nice to play out there."

All that stands between Santina and a fourth straight Grand Slam title is the French Open, historically each woman's least successful Slam tournament. A 21-time Grand Slam champion, Hingis has only one the French Open twice - in 1998 en route to the last Calendar Year Grand Slam of any kind with Jana Novotna, and 2000 with singles champion Mary Pierce - and remains the only singles and mixed doubles major to elude her. Mirza has only one French Open title to her name, the 2012 mixed doubles crown with compatriot Mahesh Bhupati.

"It's a Grand Slam for a reason, and the reason is that it's so tough to win even one in your lifetime,"Mirza told WTA Insider after she and Hingis won in Brisbane. "If it happened, it would be amazing, but it's not something we're focusing on, to be honest.

"We're just trying to focus on playing well. Every time we step on the court, we have to keep our level because everyone comes out playing great because they have no pressure - especially now that we keep winning, and everyone want to be the team to beat us.

"It's normal because they have nothing to lose. We're privileged to be in this position, really. I don't mean that in a cocky way at all

"We're just trying to take it one match at a time. Every match is tough; we're just going to go there, focus on one match at a time, and hopefully get into the Slam.

"If we win it, great. If we don't, we move on."

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