I am a little late on the post. I wanted to sing my encomiums after watching Sania Mirza battle Serena live and late into the night. It was after a long time that I found myself rooting for an Indian tennis player. There were days when Leander produced absolute magic in his Davis cup matches. A player, who would lose most of his singles matches on any given days, went on to beat the best (including Ivanisevic) in Davis cup matches, almost spurred on by some invisible strength. As a kid, I followed the adventures of Leander Paes and Ramesh Krishnan on the Davis cup courts. There was a lull after that till Bhupathi came into the picture and the Indian express gained steam. It felt like we finally got a pair of world-beaters. And then came the split. I must admit that barring the odd occasion (the quarter-final loss in the Olympics), I had almost given up on Indian tennis.
There are two different challenges that sport offers. One being team games like cricket, where you may fail on a day but others might cover for you, while you may have to take upon yourself the burden of weaker team-mates (as la Sachin). Individual sports however are tougher. There is no one else to rely on, no one to shoulder your load, none to blame if you fail. That's what makes them so lucrative. Glory is not shared, it is yours and yours alone. That is why it is so frustrating to see Vishwanathan Anand do so well, and yet, not be the best. It is so sad to not see us getting any medals in athletics. For the cricket fanatic that I am, I miss rooting for other Indian sporting heroes.
Enter the country's latest pin-up girl, Sania Mirza. I had read a lot about her in the run-up to the Australian and after her first two victories. Yet, I wasn't expecting any great shakes, primarily because she was pitted against Serena. However, it turned out to be a good match to watch. I was very impressed by her attitude on court, and the aggression she showed in the second set. The condescending and mis-reportage by the Amerian commentators made me root for her even more. It was painful listening to Pam Shriver go 'Indian women are not allowed to play tennis'. Hello? You have this other commentator going 'She was born in the city of Bombay, formerly known as Chennai and now stays in Hyderabad' (she is a Hyderabad born girl in actuality who stays in Mumbai). Even though she lost the match, she put up a susbtantial fight in the second set and actually made Serena sweat.
Of course, she hasn't actually won anything substantial in the professional circuit, and if she doesn't improve he strength and fitness, might disappear faster than you can spell Kournikova. For the moment though, I am happy for her success. Her post-match interviews also bring her forth as a lass with class and some brains. Of course, the fact that she is a Sachin fan gets her extra points in my book :-)
Enough of the Sania chaalisa. I sincerely hope she lives up to her promise and becomes a sporting star in India for all the right reasons. If she does well in subsequent grand slams, I am sure to catch her matches. Go, Sania, Go!!