By Steve Gorten
KEY BISCAYNE – When Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza won the women’s doubles title at Indian Wells last month, their first tournament together as partners, it came as “a big surprise” to many observers, Mirza said.
After all, not only did they not lose a set, they didn’t surrender more than four games in any set.
So Hingis and Mirza came to the 2015 Miami Open knowing they’d be scouted harder by opponents. Sunday, in the final at Miami, it looked like Hingis and Mirza might not only lose their first set, but their first match.
Then they won the next eight games and cruised to a 7-5, 6-1 win against the Russian pair of Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina, which lost last year’s Miami final to Hingis and former partner Sabine Lisicki.
“The most important thing is that we never stop believing we are a great team,” Hingis said. “They started off really well. We just had to get our rhythm and start hitting. In the beginning, we were almost thinking, ‘OK, they were going to hand it over to us.’ But they’re not, because they have nothing to lose from last week, and we have to prove it again.”
Hingis and Mirza beat Makarova and Vesnina 6-3, 6-4 in the final at Indian Wells. They were the No. 1 seed with Makarova and Vesnina as the No. 2 seed, and that was the case again Sunday.
Makarova and Vesnina jumped out to a 5-2 lead, and had Hingis and Mirza facing set point at 5-3. Eight games later, they would find themselves down a set and 0-3 in the second.
“That was a huge turning point because they got a little down on themselves,” Mirza said.
“I’m upset a little bit because this match was much closer for us [than at Indian Wells],” Makarova said. “We were playing really great tennis and leading with two breaks. And then they started to play a little more aggressive and we lost our game a little bit.”
Added Vesnina: “We were still in the game and thought we can turn it around, but most of the points were going their way. Everything was good for them and everything was bad for us. …We lost our concentration a little bit and they started playing better. You have to give them credit because they’re doing great.”
Mirza said there many reasons why she and Hingis, the former world No. 1 singles player, have had the success they’d had so far.
“We complement each other’s games, she at the net and me at the back,” Mirza said. “That’s our biggest strength. When I’m hitting the ball big at the back and she’s at the net, it’s tough for the other team to find space. The second thing is she knows how to win. I’ve won a lot in the last couple of years and we both always try to find a way.”
For the 34-year-old Hingis, a five-time Grand Slam singles winner who has played doubles full-time since 2007, Sunday’s win gave her the same number of career WTA doubles titles (43) as singles titles.
“That was my goal, at least reach the same number,” Hingis joked. “No. Now we’re working on getting Sania to No. 1. That’s the main goal for me – to get her to No. 1.”
“It’s a different situation in my career right now,” she said. “I know my singles days were over a long time ago when I decided not to play anymore. I always say, everything I achieve now is a bonus. I really enjoy every minute, every moment of it.”
Mirza said having to rally from 2-5 in the first set was a new scenario for her and Hingis, so they talked about “trying to enjoy the struggle as well.”
Hingis, who won the singles title at the Miami Open in 1997 and 2000, called Crandon Park Tennis Center “a great place for me to play.”
“Especially last year, winning my first big tournament with Sabine and proving to myself I can actually still play with the elite out there today.”