Tennis player Sania Mirza (TV grab from www.ndtv.com)
The kind of public profile, credibility and adulation that India’s best known female tennis player Sania Mirza enjoys might mislead one to think she has won every single grand slam tournament. There could not be a greater disconnect between what her admirers think she has achieved and what she has actually achieved.
In recent years most headlines capturing the 23-year-old Sania’s performances can be distilled down to one: “Sania Mirza crashes out of second round.” This after the most frequently used headline: “Sania Mirza advances to second round.” It is almost as if she advances to the second round so that she can crash out of it.
She has had a few successes, of course. The most notable being the first Indian woman to win a grand slam title in 2009 when she won the mixed doubles with fellow Indian player Mahesh Bhupati at the Australian Open. The highest she has risen in the WTA rankings is 27 (that was in 2005) and she is currently at 92. As world class tennis performers go she is much closer to the lower end of the benchmark than the higher end.
Notwithstanding her largely mediocre career she has become a youth icon because of a combination of factors, none of which I feel like elaborating on right now. What has prompted this post is the kind of media frenzy her announcement to marry an equally high profile Pakistani cricketer called Shoaib Malik. That she was recently engaged to her one time boyfriend Sohrab Mirza and then decided to call it off because they found themselves to be “incompatible” also plays into this story apart from everything else that this highly self-assured young woman represents.
The story of their impending wedding has found resonance worldwide, simply because they come from two countries which have been congenital adversaries. The Guardian of London had this headline “India-Pakistan romance shows all's fair in love, war, tennis and cricket.” The New York Times chimed in with “Pakistan's Malik, India's Mirza In Cross - Border Wedding”. The young couple, in keeping with the exigencies of such a union, have decided to live mainly in the more neutral and glitzy Dubai.
As an aside, let me mention how this story, tailor-made for the broadcast media, prompted such brilliant questions to Sania as: “To kaisa lag raha hai (So how does it feel?) and “When is the wedding date?” One reporter asked how and where the two met, barely hiding his real intention to find out how she conducted the affair even while she was getting engaged to Sohrab Mirza. She quickly said it was personal and would like to keep it that way, a euphemism for “Shut the fuck up you insolent punk.” (Just kidding but you get the drift.)