First Indian Sportswoman on Time South Asia’s cover; WTA Newcomer of the Year, 2005; Round 4 of US Open 2004; Winner Girls doubles at Wimbledon 2003; Media darling and THE TRUE MEASURE OF POPULARITY: had a fatwa issued against her.
That was 2005. The world of sport is unforgiving and most fans have the memory spans shorter than a goldfish. Great champions have been seen to come back after breaks, after brilliant seasons and struggle like ordinary mortals. Things change quickly. Borg found out when he took a break, Ferrari found out last season: you need to keep working, keep improving because sooner rather than later, someone is going to figure you out.
Sania Mirza is discovering that this season. She has had a terrible year, especially at the Grand Slams: Round 2, Round 1, Round 1. Yes, she has been plagued by injuries that have been recurring, a major cause for worry.
Sania has a very powerful forehand and is a powerful hitter of the ball. Some wonderful forehand crosscourts she hits! Also, she goes for her shots at all times. This has won her matches against some very good players. She has a strong mind and an ability to dig deep and face adverse situations.
But her serve has been weak and not much work seems to have gone into it in the off-season: if I could see this any opponent would have. And as an athlete, she needn’t necessarily be in the class of the Williams Sisters (very few are). But she seems to be struggling for pace on the court and seems to lack stamina, a drawback for Leander in his early years. Agassi, at 30, was training in the heat in the mountains to help him in the Australian Open. Now, that’s the kind of commitment you need to display to be at the top of your sport.
To a certain extent, there seems to be a feeling that beating a top ten player once or twice is a huge achievement. But then, champions don’t think that way. They know they belong and display that through their performances.
She has passion for the game which is essential but not sufficient. Sania is figuring out the hard way that being a media celebrity is one thing (hard as even that may be). But professional sport is a whole new ball game.
The perfect poster child: young, good looking woman from a minority community? The woman who will aid the growth of tennis popularity in India? Or will she be more: a consistent winner on the world stage, a top ten ranker on a regular basis? The next two years will tell whether Sania means as much business on-court as the business she generates off it.
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