Sania loses in tennis but wins Australian hearts:
[Sports India]: Melbourne, Jan 21 : India's emerging sports heartthrob Sania Mirza may have lost in the Australian Open to one of the best exponents of tennis, but she has won legion of fans with her dashing game, mild demeanour and debonair looks.
The Australian Open organisers usually do not expect anything sensational in a preliminary round women's match, but the atmosphere in Sania's match against seventh seed Serena Williams can be described in one word - electric.
The third round game had everything the organisers could ask for - full house, competitive tennis and tremendous atmosphere.
Sania, a wildcard entry in this Grand Slam tournament, clearly looked overawed in the presence of flamboyant, larger than life Serena in the first set which she lost 1-6 to the American, who is trying to put the memories of a bleak 2004 behind her.
Thanks to vocal support from flag-waving Indian fans and her own inner resolve, Sania gave a tough fight to Serena extending the second set to a close 6-4. The fact that she saved two match points on her serve, reflects the spirit this young Indian girl possesses.
The Indian community has been rallying behind this great brown hope ever since her wild card entry in the season opening grand slam tourney was announced. It would not be a gross exaggeration to say that in the past one week Sania has emerged from Sania who? to become the most well known Indian personality walking the southern hemisphere.
A large number of Indian fans were disappointed by the timing of the match as it ran into prime time television programming by the official telecaster Channel Seven. Undoubtedly, pubs and bars with pay-television sports channels may have benefited from the brown-skinned cheer squads.
The teenagers among the South Asian community have instantly adopted her as their pin-up girl. The fact that the education institutions in Australia are closed for summer break has added to the building of hype around Sania's Melbourne campaign.
The unbridled, one-day-cricket-like enthusiasm was on full display in the Friday Melbourne Open game at Flinders Park as team Sania thronged the arena with tricolours, placards and painted faces. The number of spectators in the Sania-Serena game was clearly higher than the one that featured current Russian heartthrob Maria Sharapova.
The excitement shown by the Sania brigade on Friday at Flinders Park is usually reserved for the likes of Sachin Tendulkars, Aishwarya Rais and Daler Mehndis.
Sania may not remember or respond positively to a cheeky placard saying 'Marry me Sania' but she would certainly remember the Melbourne Grand Slam as her entry point to what is known as the top tier of women's tennis.
Indo-Asian News Service