Mirza Focusing on Success, Not Appearance
By LIZ ROBBINS
When Sania Mirza
became the first woman from India to advance as far as the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament — at the 2005 United States Open — she felt the glory and the sting of her instant success.
A fatwa was reportedly issued from Muslim clerics, who said her tennis outfits were too revealing, threatening to stop her from playing tennis. She had to add private security when she played a match in Calcutta after the Open.
“It was difficult at the beginning, but I think people have accepted it,” Mirza, 20, said yesterday after defeating Laura Granville, 6-3, 7-5, in the second round of the Open. “I’ve accepted the fame, with the good and the bad that comes with it. I think a few things went overboard for absolutely no reason. By the end of it, we figured it was never a fatwa, just the press trying to blow up stuff.
“That’s behind me. At this point, I am winning tennis matches, that’s what matters now.”
Two years and one knee operation later, Mirza is trimmer and more modest in her words, though not necessarily her appearance. Wearing a silver nose ring and three earrings, she said she wanted people to focus on her tennis.
She has made that possible after working with a fitness trainer this year after her arthroscopic knee surgery in March, responding with a strong summer on the hardcourts.
For the fourth time this year, the 26th-seeded Mirza will play No. 6 Anna Chakvetadze, in the third round. She lost to Chakvetadze in the final at Stanford and in the semifinals the week before in Cincinnati. Mirza also lost to Chakvetadze in the semifinals at Hobart.
“We passed each other in the corridor, and I said, ‘I’m sick of meeting you every time!’ ” Mirza said with a laugh.
Mirza played the opening match at Armstrong Stadium yesterday, buoyed by a large contingent of Indian fans.
“It actually excites you to walk on court and see all these Indian faces; they’ve taken off from their jobs probably and they’re there at 11 in the morning,” she said. “It’s actually a better feeling when you lose and you walk off and they’re still cheering.”
TURNING HEADS WITH VICTORIES
While other more glamorous players live on the show courts, Anna Chakvetadze
was toiling on Court 13 against Nicole Pratt, who is ranked 68th.
Chakvetadze claimed a 6-3, 6-4 victory in a match in which she controlled the run of play, hitting 38 winners to Pratt’s 9. She also committed 30 unforced errors to Pratt’s 6.
Chakvetadze said it was a tougher match than it appeared. “I think this is her last year,” she said of the 34-year-old Pratt. “She is fighting for every point.”
Chakvetadze was philosophical about her position on the show-court pecking order. “There were more interesting matches to put on the show courts,” she said.
And she said she did not mind flying under the radar.
“I am just trying to play my game, play my best,” she said. “If you play better, more people will pay attention to you.” RAY KRUEGER