New Delhi: Left teary-eyed after her Indianness was put into question just weeks back, tennis star Sania Mirza dedicated her US Open title to the country and the new state of Telangana, where her appointment as brand ambassador triggered a political furore.
Last night, the first-time combination of Sania and Brazil's Bruno Soares clicked brilliantly as they secured a close win in the final to win the mixed doubles trophy.
"I am very happy, it's great to win it with Bruno. For the first time we played together, it's been great two weeks. I dedicate this victory to everybody in India, my country, and to the state of Telangana and all people of Telangana," Sania told PTI from New York after winning the final.
"I am extremely ecstatic, it's a dream come true, hopefully many more will come," said the 27-year-old.
Sania's third career Grand Slam came barely a month after she was branded 'daughter-in-law' of Pakistan by a BJP leader due to her marriage with cricketer Shoaib Malik. The comment was triggered by the Telangana government's decision to appoint her brand ambassador of the newly-created state.
The Hyderabadi was forced to issue a statement to assert her roots and was seen breaking down on news channels while trying to do so.
Asked if the controversy played on her mind during the US Open campaign, Sania said she believes in moving forward and remains focussed on her game after stepping into the court.
"I don't think we should focus on the negatives," said Sania, who is first Indian female player and only the third from the country after Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes to have won Grand Slam titles.
Sania and Bruno were cruising in the Match Tie break and had five championship points after securing a comfortable 9-4 lead but a flurry of errors threatened to devastate their hopes.
Local hope Abigail Spears and Santiago Gonzalez made it 9-9 and looked like snatching it away from the Indo-Brazilian top seeds.
"We all had our hearts in our mouths at that point but we just tried to be positive and do whatever we could, help each other out and come out on top," Sania said recalling the crunch moment.
Sania had played the previous three Grand Slams of the season with Romanian partner Horea Tecau but was forced to split as desired results did not come.
They began well by reaching the final of the Australian Open but suffered second round exit at the French Open and were ousted in the third round at the Wimbledon.
Sania said the efforts to team up with Bruno started after the Wimbledon defeat.
"We happened to meet after Wimbledon and he asked if we could play. Me and Bruno had different partners, we messaged each other, spoke to each other and one thing led to another," she explained.
Asked how the partnership clicked in the very first attempt, Sania said, "Most importantly, I think we returned very well. We play very good games which suit each other. Our opponents were always under pressure upon return of serves."
Having won titles at Australian Open (2009), French Open (2012) and the US Open, Sania will have the opportunity to complete a career mixed doubles Slam next season.
"Definitely winning any Slam is great, if it happens that would be great, I look forward to it and will complete a career Grand Slam one day."
Talking about the women's doubles Slam title, which continues to elude her, Sania said she has no regrets. She had ended runners-up with Russian partner Elena Vesnina in 2011 and had a good opportunity at Flushing Meadows this week as she and Cara Black had reached the semifinals.
"We had bad luck. We stuck together really well and helped each other," she said about her partnership with the Zimbabwean.