Melbourne:If India's cricketers have gone through a terrible week in Australia, the country's tennis star Sania Mirza has been going through hell, facing threats of a three-year jail term for an alleged insult to the national flag, Australian media has reported.
Asked about the eight-day sporting 'war' between India and Australia resulting from the second Test in Sydney, the 21-year-old exciting Indian icon said recent legal threats have led her to consider if quitting tennis was a good idea.
"Obviously, as an Indian I am in support of India," Mirza said. "But I think I have my own set of controversies. I am going to leave the rest to them."
The 31st seed at the ongoing Australian Open here faces charges that she failed to respect the Indian flag at Perth's Hopman Cup a fortnight ago by sitting with her bare feet facing the tricolour, an offence under the country's Prevention of Insult to the National Honour Act that carries a penalty of three years in jail and a fine.
An AFP photographer has so far declined to hand over the original image that could be used against the Indian. In the photograph published in newspapers the flag is closer to the camera and clearly out of focus while Sania's face is in sharp focus, indicating that it was cleverly clicked.
Sania, who on Tuesday registered 1.94 million hits on Google after beating Uzbekistan's Iroda Tulyaganova 6-4, 6-2 in the first round at the Australian Open, compared to cricketer Sachin Tendulkar's 1.6m and Maria Sharapova's surprisingly paltry 562,000, has become a target for Indian ultra-nationalists and Islamic fundamentalists as her ranking and profile have risen.
Fundamentalists have issued a fatwa against her for wearing short skirts and singlet tops, while effigies of the player were burned after she was incorrectly accused of supporting pre-marital sex.
Little wonder she is finding it hard to keep her mind on the game.
"I am not super-human and it does affect me," she said.
"In the circumstances, I am just happy that I came through the first round, because I was expected to win this match. I expected to go through it easily."
Sania admitted she had briefly thought of quitting tennis over the flag furore.
"A lot of things went through my head and one of the thoughts was (quitting), but I'm not saying I was serious enough that I am going to quit right now," she said.
"I am not sure how many superstars are dealing with these issues on a daily basis. I think being a superstar from India, maybe they could be."