The first-time pairing of Sania Mirza and Christina McHale ended as the runners-up at the inaugural WTA 250 “Tennis in the Land” 2021 Cleveland Championships. Mirza/McHale lost the finals 7-5 6-3 against the top-seeded Japanese pairing of Shuko Aoyama/Ena Shibahara. This was Mirza’s 63rd WTA doubles final, first of the season and second after her maternity break. She has won 42 WTA doubles titles in the past.
Q) Congratulations! It was a great tournament for both of you. Today was a tough match against the top seeds. What are your thoughts about the match?
Christina: Yeah, it was a great week! The other girls played very well. I know I could have played a little bit better but I think it was just really fun playing with Sania this week and getting in some matches before New York.
Q) Sania, you have had over 80 different women’s doubles partners over the course of your professional tennis career, and McHale was your 81st different partner. What’s even more impressive is that you have made it to the finals or better in the very first tournament with 12 different partners on the WTA tour. That’s an incredible feat. When most players, including doubles specialists, take some time to gel well and get the desired results, what do you think is that you possess, that you manage to do well with any doubles partner from the word ‘go’?
Sania: Thank you! Yeah, I know right. I think I try and pick very good partners with who I get along. I guess that is the main thing: the chemistry on and off the court, and that kinda shows right away. And we just try and play every point, and that is how we look at every match.
Q) Christina, you are primarily a singles player. But how important is doubles in general for you on the tour?
Christina: I try to play a lot more doubles matches. If you are not winning many singles matches, it is good to be still playing competitive tennis playing doubles. I think I learnt a lot from Sania this week. And I think it is good for my overall game to play doubles.
Q) Sania, you have entered the US Open with Coco Vandeweghe. You have played with her before and made it to the semifinals at Birmingham (and had to, unfortunately, give a walkover). She is a very unorthodox player. How did this partnership come about? What are your expectations heading into the last Slam of the year?
Sania: Well, I am actually very thankful to have a wildcard with Coco. I think we are both, kind of, making our respective comebacks, so it is especially good for us to be together. We only played once before, but we are looking forward to it. We just spoke to each other and it turned out this way. I would like to thank the USTA for the wildcard and am looking forward to a good tournament.
Q) Christina, even you had a little difficult year but things have turned out well now heading into your home Slam. What do you think about it?
Christina: US Open is my favorite tournament of the year. I always feel very excited going into it It is close to where I live. I am really excited to get there and to get started on Monday. Thank you, I gotta run to New York!
Q) Sania, you have also planned to play the last quarter with Shuai Zhang. Given that the WTA Year-End Finals will be happening at Shenzhen this year, is that also in your sights?
Sania: I have had so many different partners throughout the year. So it is very difficult. There is no more Asian swing this year.
… But you were quite close to making it just before your maternity break, being in a similar situation, where you were just 1-2 slots below the cut with Peng Shuai, just playing 3-4 events together.
Haha, yeah I know! But I mean if that happens I will treat you but honestly playing just 2-3 events and making it to the year-end finals is very unlikely. But Zhang is a really good player. She just won Cincinnati. We also played against each other this week. So we are looking forward to playing together.
Q) A lot of your contemporary players like Vesnina, Shvedova, Zvonareva, are giving a try in singles. Is it too much to hope for Sania to play an odd singles event in the future, with Izhaan cheering her on by the stands?
Sania: Yeah, that is unlikely because one event is something that can’t do anything for my career. But if I do give it a shot, I will let you guys know!