Bangalore:Tennis fans in Bangalore will undoubtedly miss Sania Mirza, but they will have the William sisters and rising Serb Jelena Jankovic to provide the frills and thrills in the $600,000 tier-II WTA Bangalore Open, starting in Bangalore at the Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association (KSLTA) on Monday.
The build-up for the richest women's tournament not only in India but in the entire South and South-East Asia had a severe setback when out of the blue Sania decided to pull out of the event to evade controversies that chased her whenever she played at home.
However, the organisers have roped in the William sisters - world No 7 Serena and world No 8 Venus Williams of the US - to make up for the 21-year-old Hyderabadi's absence. World No 4 Jelena Jankovic of Serbia gave the tournament a shot in the arm.
Tournament director and KSLTA secretary Sunder Raju believes that looking at the field, nobody should miss Sania.
"The tournament will provide enough scope for Indian tennis enthusiasts to witness some of the big names of women's circuit," Raju said.
"The crowd response is also encouraging. Tickets of the last couple of days have more or less been sold out. People are eagerly waiting to see the big names of women's tennis in action'" he said.
Five of the top 30 players in the world, including world No 15 Patty Schnyder of Switzerland, 18-year-old Hungarian Agnes Szavay (ranked 19th), Austrian Sybille Bammer (ranked 20th), Russian beauties Vera Zvonareva (22nd) and reigning Sunfeast Open champion Maria Kirilenko (26th) are among the high-ranked players playing in Bangalore.
Following Sania's absence, the organizers have also made an effort to rope in some home flavour by giving wild cards to Shikha Uberoi and Isha Lakhani in the 32-field tournament.
Interestingly, the William sisters, who are believed to be very choosy and rarely make public appearances together in the same event other than the Grand Slam Championships, have indeed shown an unusual gesture by confirming their participation well in advance. They are on their maiden visit to the country.
"We have heard so much about the city, the Indian crowd and Indian culture and we would love to soak up all that during our stay here," Venus said about their Bangalore visit.
Whatever the organisers may claim, Sania will be missed not only for her tennis but also for her glamorous looks.
"Sania's absence is a big disappointment for the tournament. Although Serena and Venus are playing, she (Sania) will surely be missed," said Sumit, software professional who intends to watch only the last two days of the event.
Sania's decision to pull out from the tournament did not go down well with tennis legend Vijay Amritraj, who termed the decision disappointing.
"It is a big disappointment if Indians don't play at home. As Indians, we would have liked to see her play here," said Vijay.