"The Hindu" is known for its excellent articles and editorials.This one is one of its honest opinion about Sania Mirza
Sania Mirza: girl with good attitude
Drop the word "cocky" around Sania Mirza, and rapidly explain that err, look, it's a compliment but damn, already you can hear her jaw clench. She thinks you're calling her arrogant and she'll have none of that. Airs she doesn't own, conceit she doesn't wear.
What she's got, she explains, is "attitude". Take it down right, her tone suggests, ensure you know the difference. India's gifted, rousing, delightful tennis player is doing what she's done to opponents all year: putting you under pressure.
Being old and all, and "attitude" being from another generation's vocabulary, maybe we'll get it wrong. But attitude perhaps translates to walking tall and proud even when you stroll onto centre court with Serena, it's being in Kuznetsova's face and unapologetic about it, it's an unblinking cool as you beckon challenge, it's being refreshingly and unashamedly ambitious.
Sense of belonging
Coyness doesn't belong here, meekness is not invited. This is about stating, plainly, that I'm good enough and I belong. Sania Mirza wants the world and fine, she may not get it, but you'd have to be crazy not to watch this young spirit as she chases her dream.
Sania Mirza is 18, and she's shattering stereotypes and breaking new ground, a jolt of adrenalin in a lethargic Indian sporting world. Ask what she's learnt this year and she responds: "I learnt I'm more confident than I thought I was and much more determined. I can do anything to compete."
Better believe her, for it has been a year of on-court effrontery. Last year Mirza wasn't even on the WTA Tour. This year she's won one tournament and 22 matches on it, 13 against opponents higher ranked, one ranked No. 9, the other No. 7. Last year she didn't play a slam. This year she got to the third round at one. Last year she was ranked 206, already she's galloped to 48. Not bad for a girl with a gimpy ankle, strained stomach muscles and a serve that's a masterpiece in shoddy construction.
Mirza is not finished. "I've learnt on the baseline I can match anyone", and she smacks the ball with the grimness of an annoyed headmistress. As she says: "I've been taught to go for my shots, hit as hard as I can. It's a powerful game (out there) and if you push the ball you will be out-hit."
Violence becomes her, risk is a familiar friend, and while in time she will harvest a finer versatility, it is her forceful nature that carries its own menace. "(Going for my shots) has brought me so far, and if my unforced errors are high, the winners compensate".
Quicker, she insists, on her feet, learning to synchronise brain and body to confront the big points, Mirza feels she has grown as person and player in this tumultuous year, a sudden onset of adulthood that performing under the scrutiny of the public eye invariably brings.
But maturity, as technician and competitor, is still some distance away, it is a journey that must run its course and not everyone is a phenomenon at 16. First a serve must be remodelled, a fitness enhanced, a repertoire expanded, a shot selection sharpened.
Mirza, of course, wants to embrace success immediately, and this frantic, raw need to excel is her fuel, yet mention that it will take at least two years for her to discover her game more fully and she admits it is "a fair statement".
World No.15 Nathalie Dechy played nine Grand Slams before reaching the third round; No. 13 Alicia Molik took 21 slams to enter the fourth round; No. 10 Nadia Petrova played 12 slams before getting past the fourth round. Mirza has only played three so far.
Mirza may go backwards before she goes forwards again, will lose early some days and bruise egos on others. Talk of champion is premature and her expedition to her eventual level of accomplishment, whatever it may be, is to be enjoyed; in India, often, inflated labels are pinned on players and dejection follows when they cannot fit it.
Expectation stalks Mirza, but it must be worn. Occasionally she will meet people who say "I hope you win the U.S. Open", a ridiculous idea but said with the best intentions, and she laughs it off, wisdom shining in her answer for she says it is but the awkwardness of generous strangers unsure of what to say to an athlete. Later, she adds: "It is human nature to want more, and if I'm No. 48 I want to be in the top 20".
Mirza sitting in her hotel room in Toronto, grounded for a week by a recurring stomach muscle injury as the U.S. Open looms, stands now at No. 50. It has been hard; it promises only to get harder. Opponents who once dismissed her as the streaky new girl will pry her game open, batter at her vulnerabilities, lower-ranked players will want to carry home her scalp, points will need to be defended as the calendar turns over. Every day calls for sweat. And desire.
Mirza's eyelids will not bat. It's not her style. Confrontation is. Somewhere in the interview she is asked about beating higher-ranked opponents and she shrugs off the compliment. It's no big deal, she says, as if reputations and ranking are irrelevant.
It makes you grin, because she's just being herself. A girl going places, armed with good attitude.