Indian tennis ace Sania Mirza opted out of India’s richest tennis event, the $600,000 dollar WTA Bangalore Tennis Open. Mirza, Asia’s highest ranked player at number 29, said that she did so to avoid controversies. Her decision evoked sympathies from the Indian tennis fraternity with some old-timers urging her to reconsider her decision .The Bangalore Open this year will see the William sisters playing for the first time on Indian soil.
“I have gone through great lows in the last few weeks,” Sania said from her home in Hyderabad. “It has been difficult to try and stay focused.”Former Davis Cup captain Akhtar Ali sympathized with the way Sania was being treated and described her decision as “unfortunate” for the sport community in the country.
“It is a sad day for Indian sports. It is very unfortunate. She is not well. She did not have a good time at the Australian Open. And on top of that she is being made the subject of controversies every now and then. Some people are repeatedly hassling her. This is all sheer politics,” Ali said.
Sania’s manager and Australian Open mixed doubles partner, Mahesh Bhupati said that it was just a “one off” instance and that it was only for this year that she would not play in India.
In a country that has been obsessed largely by male dominated sports like cricket and hockey, Sania Mirza came as a breath of fresh air three years ago. At the tender age of 17, she suddenly was catapulted to the throes of stardom. She broke the traditional mindset regarding sports and single-handedly brought women’s tennis in India to the global playing field.
Her upward journey in the WTA rankings since the past 4 years has been marred by controversies and injuries. In 2005, when Sania won her first WTA title, her Muslim faith came into limelight and Islamic fundamentalists denouncing her apparently promiscuous dressing sense on court, issued a fatwa against her. More recently, she was dragged to court for unintentional disrespect to the national flag, when, during a tour, she rested her legs on a table with the tricolor flag on it. As soon as it happened, Indian news channels had that particular picture of her flashed all over television screens in India and a new controversy was born out of a seemingly harmless action. From Muslim clerics to the Indian media, everybody is obsessed with Sania; a foot out of line and they are waiting in the vicinity ready to pounce on her and tear her apart. A girl, who has done nothing more than playing her game and give India a standing, in a sport dominated by Russians and Americans, has to constantly reaffirm her patriotism.
In the light of these happenings, Sania’s decision to stay out of the Bangalore Open is correct. The tennis ace has fallen victim to petty politics plaguing Indian sports.
She might be a star but, first and foremost, she is a 21-year old girl who has been given too much responsibility to shoulder. Come on people let us not grudge her well-deserved break!
[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/azgar/170089150/ ]