Bangalore Open: Sania opts out fearing controversies

Indian tennis star Sania Mirza has made a startling revelation, saying she won't play next month's Bangalore Open in order to avoid controversies.

updated: February 13, 2008 17:02 IST
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Indian tennis star Sania Mirza has made a startling revelation, saying she won't play next month's Bangalore Open in order to avoid controversies.

Sania said that the sports management company that manages her, and is headed by her mixed-doubles partner Mahesh Bhupathi, has advised her against playing in India, since she's always more accessible to the media through the mandatory press conferences.

But the Karnataka tennis association, the organisers of the Bangalore open are obviously distraught at finding out that Sania Mirza will be skipping the tournament just because she fears controversies.

The tournament director however said that Mahesh Bhupathi might have given his prot g and client the wrong advice because the best thing to get over controversies is to play the game.

Sania Mirza is the first Indian woman to win an international tennis event. She won the WTA tour's newcomer of the year award in 2005 and she's been the only Indian to reach the fourth round of a grand slam event.

But sadly much of Sania's career has been about the controversies rather than the celebration.

Sania Mirza's success on the tennis courts had been like a breath of fresh air for women's tennis in India after years of under achievement.

But along with the success that the Hyderabadi Hurricane achieved, came controversies galore, many from the religious fundamentalists who didn't think it right for a Muslim girl to play a sport in short skirts.

There have been many protests against Sania Mirza. First it was supposedly the Rahul and Priyanka youth brigade in Hyderabad organising a protest against Sania Mirza.

Her offence was that she posed for a shoe company with a guitar that was painted in the tricolour as her foot was next to the guitar.

Former Davis Cup player Naresh Kumar feel, If her move is mainly due to the controversies that have been dogging her, I don t think such a hasty decision was necessary. I really wonder what prompted her to do it, whether she was under threat or anything like it. Whatever it is, I hope she can overcome her difficulties and continue to play in India. It is really sad that things have arrived to such a pass. If it is indeed a threat which forced her to pull out, it must have been of a very serious nature. We will miss out on watching Sania take on the Williams sisters at home.

That was in 2005 but things in 2008 are no different. This time it was another case of abusing the tricolour after a very misleading photo was taken of the world number 29 in Australia. No wonder then that she thought of quitting tennis all together.

"I don't want to comment on the tricolour case. But if I was not respectful of my country or if I did not love my country, I would not have played the Fed Cup on one leg. But I do not talk about these things. I had offers at the same time to go and earn money somewhere else but I did the right thing," said Sania.

So sadly, Sania's meteoric rise in tennis has coincided with a spate of controversies. Be it the length of her skirts, her playing with an Israeli or even her shooting at the holy Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad, there was an objection because women are not allowed in the sanctum Santorum and a hurt Sania issued a public apology.

"All through her career, the media has played its part reporting the good with the bad but perhaps they stand guilty as well for driving her to this stage where she is willing to miss the biggest tennis tournament in the country," said Ramachandra Guha, Writer and Historian.

"Media goes overboard at times but can't live with them and can't live without them," said Vishaal Uppal, Former Indian Davis Cupper.

That media blitz has made her the second most popular sports person in India after the cricketers and brought in the sponsorships as well. Fortunately, none of this has taken a toll on her tennis progress as yet but if the controversies continue, then it could well mean the end of her career.