E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Sania Mirza brought in a whiff of youthful breeze to Indian sport when she arrived on tennis horizon. Spunky and self-assured, her powerful forehand had even seeded opponents on their toes. But injuries, and unforced errors on and off the court, have seen her career yo-yo. Her bindaas attitude became a sitting duck and with the media pulling her down as quickly as it hoisted her, it was a matter of time before it all got to the 21-year-old.Still, is that reason enough for her to withdraw from the WTA Bangalore Open for reasons other than tennis?
# This was her best chance to go and show that these distractions do not deter her. The best way to put your detractors on notice is by beating them at their game with yours. That is playing tennis and giving her best on the court. The tennis-loving public still loves her for what she has done for the game and the country.
# Sania is definite to represent the country in the Olympics. By not playing in India and saying she will avoid playing in the country ‘for the time being’, makes one wonder whether she should represent the country at all for the Olympics, which is just six months away.
# It appears that Mahesh Bhupathi, being Sania’s manager/mentor (?) seems to be advising her. Bhupathy, whose tiff with Leander Paes is legendary, had once gone on record saying that ‘he would never like to play for the country again’. Now that Olympics is on the horizon, he has started making the right noises about winning the gold for the country with Paes. Such pick and choose play is not what Sania needs at this juncture in her career. As Naresh Kumar, former Davis cupper and India captain rightly pointed out, “it is not a wise decision by Sania and she should rethink her decision.”
# There are also rumours now of Sania having withdrawn from the Bangalore Open, not because of the flag controversy or the advertising row or her statements on premarital sex, but because of money. Apparently, last year she was given $100,000 (approximately Rs 40 lakh) of the $175,000 prize money. The organisers were unwilling to pay as much this year. If this indeed is true, it Sania and Mahesh are putting a spin on what is a clear commercial motivation.
Sania Mirza has the game, the money and the stature. What she needs is to learn from Anil Kumble and company on how to overcome the odds and not to be led astray by emotions and impulses when representing the country. India could have come back from Australia after the racist label was slapped on Harbhajan Singh. By playing on, staring the bully and beating him at Perth, they created history.
That is what playing for the country is all about. This was more than chak de. Indian tennis, and Sania Mirza, need a dose of that therapy.
Infographic: courtesy The Telegraph, Calcutta