Sania Mirza was on Tuesday recommended for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, becoming only the second tennis player ever to be named for the country’s highest sporting honour.
Sania, currently ranked world number one in women’s doubles, scripted history by becoming the first Indian to clinch a women’s doubles Grand Slam when she partnered Swiss great Martina Hingis for the Wimbledon trophy earlier this year.
Sania is only the second tennis player after Leander Paes to be named for the top award. Paes had been bestowed the honour way back in 1996 after his bronze medal in the Atlanta Olympics.
The 28-year-old, who has won three mixed doubles Grand Slams in her career, beat competition from squash player Deepika Pallikal, discus thrower Vikas Gowda, track and field star Tintu Luka, rising shuttler P V Sindhu, and hockey captain Sardar Singh for the coveted honour.
Besides doing well on the professional circuit, Sania had also won the gold medal and the bronze medal in the mixed and women’s doubles categories of the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
The Hyderabadi girl had won the Arjuna award in 2004 and was the favourite for the top award this year. In 2006, she was bestowed the Padma Shri — the country’s fourth highest civilian honour.
Sania’s mixed doubles trophies had come in the Australian Open (2009), French Open (2012) and US Open (2014).
Sania’s name was recommended by a Sports Ministry- constituted awards committee headed by Justice V K Bali, a retired High Court Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court. The committee included eminent athletes and sports journalists apart from top officials of the Sports Ministry.