Sania Mirza made her way to the top of WTA doubles ranking yesterday.
She achieved this feat after jumping two spots on her previous career best doubles ranking of No. 3.
Playing alongside Martina Hingis of Switzerland, she won the Family Circle Cup by defeating C. Dellacqua and D. Jurak of Australia and Croatia, respectively. In the process, she also became the first Indian tennis player to accomplish this act.
After her victory and becoming the number one doubles player in women’s tennis, Sania tweeted “I also wanna thank the ppl who didn’t believe in me. You just pushed me harder and made me more determined to fulfil my dreams”.
This tweet is the perfect response to the controversies the Indian tennis star has been involved in since making her debut in 2003. Here we look at some of the storms raised by or at Sania Mirza till date –
Run-in with Jamiat-ulema-e-Hind and Other Muslim Groups
This incident dates back to 2005, two years after Mirza turned pro, when she received flak from several Muslim religious groups including Jamiat-ulema-e-Hind. One of the Muslim scholars questioned her tennis attire (skirt and t-shirt) calling it un-Islamic and debasing. Sania retorted with blaming Jamiat-ulema-e-Hind as being the reason behind her poor form at the time. Ultimately, the entire controversy worked only in her favour, as Mirza got the much-needed protection from the Calcutta police.
The Safe Sex Controversy
Pre-marital sex has always raised heated arguments in India. When Sania decided to speak about the same, the outcome was not different either. The controversy erupted, again, in 2005 when she spoke about practicing safe sex. When her comments led to people burning effigies in her state of Andhra Pradesh, Mirza decided to provide clarification and quoted, “I would like to clearly say on record that I could not possibly justify premarital sex, as it is a very big sin in Islam and one which I believe will not be forgiven by Allah.”
(Not) Partnering with Shahar Pe’er for Doubles Event
The Shahar Pe’er controversy was the result of perceptive reporting on behalf of the media when several newspapers printed that Mirza had declined to play alongside her Israeli counterpart due to possible protests from the Muslim communities in India. Nevertheless, the two players partnered in the 2007 Wimbledon tournament. Both players know one another since playing as juniors and have remained friends regardless of their religious backgrounds.
The “Resting Feet towards Indian Flag” Controversy
During the 2008 Hopman Cup, Mirza was pictured with her feet resting towards the Indian flag during Rohan Bopanna’s match. The photo was immediately circulated within the media after which the Indian women’s tennis player was criticised for showing lack of respect to the country’s flag. In retaliation, the player commented, “I love my country. I wouldn’t be playing Hopman Cup otherwise.”
Telangana Brand Ambassador Controversy
Everyone knows what hullabaloo Sania Mirza’s marriage to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik created. Mirza had just broken her engagement to Sohrab Mirza, her childhood friend and millionaire businessman. Thanks to her being one of country’s role models, Mirza was given the honours of being the brand ambassador for the new state of Telangana. Unfortunately, controversy followed her there, too, when she was labelled ‘Pakistan’s daughter-in-law’ by Telangana BJP leader K Laxman. She retaliated with saying, “Hurts me that so much precious time of prominent politicians and the media is being wasted on a petty issue”.
Regardless of the controversies that have surrounded Sania Mirza, the Indian women’s tennis player has been nothing short of a role model to the country’s youth.
Her conquering the number one status in WTA doubles ranking clearly sends a message to all her haters that she is above them all and a genuine person to idolise.