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Why 'SanTina Slam' dream shattered on clay

May 31, 2016 10:28 IST

For all their success together, the red dirt isn't Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis' most favourite surface, says Bikash Mohapatra/Rediff.com

Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis

IMAGE: Having won five titles this year, Sania and Martina were one of the favourites at the French Open. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The 'SanTina Slam' won't happen.

At least not for the time being, after the clay courts at Roland Garros proved a hurdle once again.

Any hopes Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis harboured of holding all four Grand Slam titles at the same time evaporated after their 6-3, 6-2 third round defeat by Czech duo Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova on Sunday, May 29.

Having joined forces early last year, the Indo-Swiss combine has won 14 WTA titles -- including 9 tournaments in succession between last March and this February, three straight majors and the World Championships, with Sania attaining the top ranking in the process.

The top-ranked combination, having already pocketed five titles this year, in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, St Petersburg and Rome -- were among the favorites, if not THE favorites.

But, it wasn't to be.

Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza celebrate after beating Ekterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina to win the Italian Open in Rome

IMAGE: Martina and Sania celebrate after beating Ekterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina to win the Italian Open in Rome. Photograph: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Sania had done her bit to lower expectations.

Shortly after the pair's 41-match winning streak came to a halt in Doha, the 29 year old had made an honest assessment.

'It is going to be our toughest Grand Slam to win. It is not our favorite surface. But we are doing whatever we can and hopefully we can get that 'SanTina' slam, so to say,' Sania was quoted as saying in the media.

Unlike last year, when they were successful only on green clay -- a relative faster variant, more akin to a hard court -- at Charleston (South Carolina) while struggling on the slower surfaces in Europe -- Sania and Martina were much more consistent on European clay this season.

They reached the final of two big ticket events in Stuttgart and Madrid, coming up short against the French pair of Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic on both occasions.

They then won a big event on the red dirt, besting the Russian duo Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina in the Italian Open final -- a Premier 5 tournament. Martina and Sania had come up short in the final in Rome the previous year.

The world No.1 women’s doubles pair have had problems playing on clay

IMAGE: The World No 1 women's doubles pair have had problems playing on clay. Photograph: Reuters

The win at the Foro Italico considerably increased their credentials on a surface where both players aren't exactly comfortable.

The duo broke no sweat in winning their opening two matches at Roland Garros.

Then their campaign came to an abrupt halt.

"It was always going be tough on clay," Naresh Kumar, the veteran coach, told Rediff.com

"It requires the right attitude, a range of shots and a strong mindset to win on the surface," he added.

"Clay remains the only surface where both of them are not comfortable," former Davis Cup captain Nandan Bal told Rediff.com

"There are more consistent players on clay, especially the Europeans," Bal felt. "Anybody could have beaten them."

Truth be told, SanTina's performance at Roland Garros this year was worse than last year, when they made it to the last eight, losing to Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova.

Bikash Mohapatra / Rediff.com
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