Australian Open: Andrew's first-round review
AUSTRALIAN OPEN (Melbourne, Australia; outdoor hard (Plexicushion); Grand Slam)
2. First round: Tulyaganova v Mirza review
Apologies for the delay.
This was due to Maria going all the way!
But it does give me a chance to congratulate Iroda on her Fed Cup success this week: especially her win over Australian Open fourth-rounder Hsieh,Su-Wei!
Iroda Tulyaganova and Sania Mirza:
search Getty Images for "tulyaganova"
2. Tulyaganova v Mirza review (Tuesday 15th January)
Nice winner, nice loser:
+ SANIA MIRZA [31,DF] d. Iroda Tulyaganova [WC,EF], 6-4 6-2
An expected result after the year Iroda's had. She served a monstrous 11 double faults in nine service-games, and had a W:UE ratio of 15:31, while Sania's was 21:20. At least Iroda's serve has lost none of its power (up to 119mph), but she only got 50% of first serves in, and it made a huge difference when she did so.
At least it doesn't feel so bad that she lost to Sania, whom I like a lot as a player, and find very sexy. I also have a great deal of sympathy for Sania over the persecution she continues to suffer, and I hoped she would go on to do all the things I unrealistically wanted Iroda to do at this tournament.
I saw Sania's third-round loss to Venus Williams on BBCi, and I was most impressed: Sania may not have much of a serve, but her groundstrokes are of top-ten quality and flairsome power - she was often overpowering Williams!
The following articles focus on Sania, but I've only included those that mention Iroda.
Mirza admits she considered quitting over flag-row (Reuters)
By Simon Cambers (Editing by Greg Stutchbury)
Sania Mirza, at the centre of controversy in India for reportedly disrespecting her national flag, admitted on Tuesday she had considered quitting the sport over the row.
But the 21-year-old, who advanced to the second round of the Australian Open with a 6-4 6-2 win over Iroda Tulyaganova of Uzbekistan, said it was only a fleeting thought, and she expected to be around for a while yet.
"I think a lot of thoughts went through my head in the last couple of weeks," Mirza told reporters.
"One of the thoughts was that [to quit the sport], but I wouldn't say it was serious enough that I am going to quit right now."
Mirza is the subject of a court-summons in the central city of Bhopal after a private citizen made a complaint under the country's Prevention of Insult to the National Honour Act.
The controversy surrounds a photograph taken at the Hopman Cup mixed-team event in Perth, played at the beginning of the year, that appeared to show Mirza's bare feet resting near the national flag.
The maximum punishment for the offence is a three-year jail-term, but Mirza, one of her country's biggest sporting-heroes, said she would never do anything to hurt India.
"I just know that I would not do anything to disrespect my country," she said.
"I love my country - I wouldn't be playing Hopman Cup otherwise - but besides that, I am not allowed to comment."
Mirza admitted, though, that her preparations for the year's first Grand-Slam event had been affected by the controversy.
"It's not easy to deal with things like that off the court," she said.
"Obviously there are some misunderstandings happening. I am not super-human, so it does affect me a little bit.
"I am not a politician here, to outsmart people and try to fight. That's not what I am trying to do - I am trying to play tennis, I am 21, and I am trying to do the best I can.
"However I try and block it out, it's still at the back of my mind. Under the circumstances, I am just glad I came through the first round."
Sania Mirza tries to focus on the court despite troubles off
By Dennis Passa: AP Sports Writer
In her darkest moments, Sania Mirza wonders if she should quit tennis.
The Indian tennis-star wishes her only concern before a match was to study her opponent. But it is hardly that simple.
Instead, she's taking phone-calls from lawyers in India, answering questions about her loyalty to her country, and defending her Muslim beliefs.
"It's not easy to deal with things like that off the court. I am not superhuman so it does affect me," Mirza said Tuesday after her first-round victory at the Australian Open. "As much as I try to block it out, it's still in the back of your mind."
When she first came on the WTA Tour full time three years ago - her first Grand Slam was the Australian Open in 2005 - she was often criticised for her short skirts and midriff-revealing T-shirts that put her at odds with sections of the orthodox Muslim clergy.
Now her nationalism has been questioned. She was photographed at the Hopman Cup in Perth this month with her bare feet near an Indian flag.
On 9th January, a social worker in India went to court in Bhopal and had a judge issue a summons under the "Prevention of Insult to the National Honour Act." The court was told that Mirza disrespected the Indian flag by "sitting in a manner so that her feet pointed at the flag, which he felt was derogatory and had hurt him."
Mirza insists she would never show lack of respect for India.
"I love my country," said Mirza, who is from the southern city of Hyderabad. "I wouldn't be playing Hopman Cup otherwise. But other than that, I am not allowed to comment because it is before the courts."
Last week, she said she considered quitting tennis and ending a career that has brought her one WTA Tour title and seven final-appearances.
"It does play on your mind. You do start to think that at the end of the day, I am not a politician to outsmart people," Mirza said. "That's not what I am trying to do, which is to play tennis. I'm 21 and trying to be the best I can be.
"A lot of thoughts went through my head in the past couple of weeks, and one of the thoughts was [quitting]. But I wouldn't say that they were serious enough that I would quit right now."
On Tuesday, the 31st-seeded Mirza won 6-4 6-2 over wild card Iroda Tulyaganova of Uzbekistan.
"It was very tricky to play again," Mirza said. "I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to blank out everything and play a tennis-match."
In 2005, she became the first Indian woman to advance to the third round of a Grand Slam, losing to Serena Williams in Australia after being granted a wild card.
"It is very special," she said. "There were a lot of firsts involved."
This year, she could face Venus Williams in the third round if she beats Switzerland's Timea Bascinszky in the second round.
"I always feel confident when I come back here," she said.
"At the end of the day, it is a sport, and we deal with bad line-calls on a daily basis," Mirza says, then adds, smiling, "I have my own set of controversies to deal with."
Sania Mirza is failing to fly the flag for India
By Martin Johnson for The Daily Telegraph <www.telegraph.co.uk>
National pride: Sania Mirza is proving popular but controversial
Melbourne is a long way from home for a young girl from Hyderabad, and ordinarily Sania Mirza would have been pleased to see one of her supporters waving an Indian flag when she walked onto court for her first-round women's singles match at the Australian Open yesterday.
On this occasion, however, the sight of it more likely made her break out into a nervous sweat. A couple of weeks ago, the 21-year-old was photographed with her feet up while watching a colleague playing in an international exhibition-match in Perth, and the proximity of her toes to a nearby Indian flag has raised temperatures in her home-state to vindaloo-levels.
A High Court lawyer has even gone so far as to file a case for her arrest (without bail) and a three-year jail-sentence.
The initial hearing is due to be held this week under something called the "Prevention Of Insult To The National Honour Act", citing "disrespect" to the national flag. India's predilection for red tape, taught to them by the Imperial British, but since refined to gargantuan levels, means that by the time the case gets to court she will probably be a grandmother, but it's a bit of worry nonetheless.
The sight of the flag may have been responsible for her going 1-3 behind early on to Iroda Tulyaganova of Uzbekistan, but she rallied to win comfortably enough in straights sets: 6-4 6-2. The No 31 seed did admit, though, that staying focused was becoming quite a feat when all the attention was on her feet.
"All I want to do is play tennis," she said, which was a bit of a surprise given that tennis is what keeps landing her in hot water.
When she first started out on the pro circuit at the age of 18, the length of her skirts prompted some religious mullah to issue a fatwa, which was a bit of a handicap to her chosen profession given that fashion in women's tennis-apparel has moved on - not to mention up - since Suzanne Lenglen's knickers were covered by several petticoats and a skirt which picked up chalk from the baseline.
Sania's skirt yesterday was no more than a pelmet, although she did offer a compromise by wearing underwear that resembled a pair of bicycle-shorts. She was taking more of a chance with her choice of top though, which flew up over her navel every time she launched herself into a serve.
When Sania, who is Shia Muslim, first bared her thighs on a tennis-court, people took to the streets to burn effigies of her, although this in itself is such a common event in India that it more or less doubles the smog-levels. It's most prevalent after a game of cricket, and there is barely an Indian batsman in history who hasn't had an effigy of himself set on fire.
Sania, who apparently records more hits on the Google Internet-site than even a cricketing-icon like Sachin Tendulkar, only narrowly escaped another fatwa last month by issuing a written apology for filming an advertisement close to a mosque, so one way or another, she keeps putting her foot in it.
Or in the case of flags, on it.
Indians seem to be acutely sensitive over issues that wouldn't raise an eyebrow elsewhere, and their cricketers - currently on the other side of the country in Perth - recently made a complaint (later withdrawn) over an Australian bowler calling one of them a "bastard." This tells you that they don't know much about Australians, for whom the word is close to a term of endearment.
Sania confessed that all the fuss back at home had affected her to the extent of wondering whether it was worthwhile carrying on playing, but she would have had to have been mentally away with the pixies to have been bothered by yesterday's opponent.
The girl from Uzbekistan might have been more of a handful had there not been a net between her and her opponent, which she found so regularly she'd have more chance of making it as a striker for Tashkent United.
She also racked up 11 double faults in nine service-games, but at least Miss Tulyaganova didn't have to worry about the consequences of displaying her knickers: a natty shade of orange.
Sania, on the other hand, could be facing yet another fatwa for her behaviour immediately after leaving the court, when she walked up to a man and - shock, horror - kissed him.
True, it was the lightest of pecks on both cheeks, and she was merely greeting her coach, but back home in Hyderabad, some bearded Indian cleric may already be demanding the death-penalty.
Women tennis-players approached to throw matches
By Dennis Passa: AP Sports Writer
Iroda Tulyaganova of Uzbekistan, who lost her first-round match on Tuesday to India's Sania Mirza, attended Saturday's meeting [with WTA CEO Larry Scott and 250 female players]. She said it was important that the gambling-issues were discussed.
"The public has to know that the outcome of our matches are fair, that they aren't affected by people on the Tour or off it who stand to make money from the result," said Tulyaganova. "It's the only way we can have any credibility."
Mirza said she has "never been approached, and I do not know personally of anyone who has been approached" to throw matches.
"As far as we know, women's tennis is clean," she said. "A lot has happened of course in the men's and there is a lot of talk.
"I think there needs to be a punishment - it's a profession."
Match-fixing is another prime example of what I was saying about the innocent being punished while the guilty get off scot-free. The ATP have dragged Nikolay Davydenko's name through the mud without any proof of wrongdoing, and banned three Italian men who bet on tennis-matches other than their own, but they are no closer to catching the real villains (and it's a fair bet that match-fixing does go on in the lower echelons of tennis) until they start bugging the locker-rooms, and using wiretappers and packet-sniffers to monitor telephone- and Internet-conversations.
The ATP talk about suspicious betting-patterns, but I'm more concerned about suspicious banning-patterns, given that they target Italians over gambling and Argentinians over doping.
And if it's true that the Russian Mafia are forcing players to throw matches, God help us.
Dr. Andrew Broad
Last edited by andrewbroad; Feb 2nd, 2008 at 10:17 PM.