Injuries and inconsistent form may have prevented Sania Mirza from fulfilling her potential but there is no denying that she remains one of India's most successful sportswoman. On June 7, Sania won her second Grand Slam title when she triumphed in the French Open mixed doubles with compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi.
Sania had also won the 2009 Australian Open, that victory also coming with Bhupathi.
Sania was only six years old when she started playing lawn tennis at the Nizam Club in her home town of Hyderabad. Now the 25-year-old is well-known for her powerful forehand ground strokes.
Sania is the first Indian to break into top 30 Women's Tennis Association (WTA) rankings in singles and top 10 in doubles. She has defeated many top players including Svetlana Kuznetsova, Vera Zvonareva and Marion Bartoli besides former world number ones Martina Hingis and Dinara Safina.
But on May 29, Sania crashed out of the women doubles event of the French Open in Paris with a first round defeat, dashing India's medal hopes at the London Olympics being held from July 27 to August 12.
Sania, who is world number 10 in individual doubles ranking, needed to stay in the top 10 before the June 11 cut-off mark to make a direct entry into the women's doubles draw of the Olympics. A place in the main draw of the women's doubles or singles would have given Sania a place in the mixed doubles event at the London Games where she was expected to partner with Mahesh Bhupathi.
And for that, she needed to defend 1,400 points at the Roland Garros where she was a finalist last year. Only a top 10 player makes a direct entry into the Olympics with a privilege to choose partner, irrespective of his/her ranking.
But life has been a mixed bag for Sania. Born on November 15, 1986 in Mumbai, she has had three surgeries, on her wrist and both knees, and she says her body doesn't feel 25 at all. "It feels much older," she admits.
"I think a sportsman looks at these things a bit differently. We just give it our best shot and try to take victories and defeats in our stride," Sania said after the defeat at the French Open.
Keeping sporting sprits high were probably instilled in her by C.G. Krishna Bhupathi, father of Indian tennis star Mahesh Bhupathi, who was her coach at the Nizam Club in Hyderabad. She later practiced at Sinnet Tennis Academy in Secunderabad and then at Ace Tennis Academy in the United States.
Sania's first appearance in the international arena was while representing India at the World Junior Championship in 1999 held at Jakarta. She is the first Indian to have entered the third round of Australian Open 2005. In 2004, Sania was honoured with the prestigious Arjuna award and in 2006, a Padma Shri.
Sania was engaged to childhood friend Sohrab Mirza in 2009 but the engagement was called off. She wanted to marry a sportsperson and started seeing Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik. They were married on April 12, 2010 in Hyderabad followed by ceremonies at Sialkot and Lahore in Pakistan.
Controversies are not new to her either. Wearing short tennis clothes drawn provoked some Muslim religious groups to criticise her. After she spoke at a conference on safe sex in November 2005, some Muslim leaders said Sania was detached from Islam and that she was a "corrupting influence on the youth."
Sania clarified her stance by saying that she was opposed to pre-marital sex. But when she chose to participate at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, people were happy that she has started to play again at major tournaments in India.