Sania Mirza Shot

India’s sexy sensation, Sania Mirza, has hit a volley. The 21-year-old tennis star has caught her detractors unaware by declaring that she would not play in next month’s Bangalore Open, where the likes of Venus Williams and her younger sister, Serena, are to compete. Mirza said that she would not play in her own country to avoid controversies, heeding to the advice given by the sports company that manages her. It is headed by her mixed doubles partner, Mahesh Bhupathi.

Though Mirza is the first Indian woman to win an international tennis event, reaching the fourth round of a grand slam, she has had to fight terrible controversies, largely because she is a Muslim. Much of her celebration has often been marred by rancour and bitterness.

Islamic fundamentalists have raved and ranted about her short skirts, and even though she changed into shorts while playing in India, criticism seldom stopped.

But it was not just her costume that irked people, but being a Muslim in India meant that she had to keep reaffirming her patriotism and loyalty all the time. The Rahul and Priyanka Youth Brigade in Hyderabad, Mirza’s home city, organised massive protests some time ago alleging that she had posed for a shoe company with a guitar painted in the three colours of India’s national flag. Her foot was close to the instrument, a sign of utter disrespect, the brigade charged.

Recently in Australia, she was again accused of abusing the flag in what appeared to be a misleading photograph. This was just before a match at the Australian Open, and she, sick of such controversies, had almost thought of quitting tennis then.

A pride of India, she has sadly been criticised for just about everything from the length of her skirts to her playing with an Israeli or even shooting at the holy Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad. At 21, she is still very young, and public pressures can be terribly unnerving, so unnerving that she has decided to miss the biggest tennis tournament in the country. These are terrible times for Indian sports.

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