PARIS - Sania Mirza says she will never abandon India despite the intense pressure of being one her country’s most high profile stars.
The 20-year-old pin-up has been encouraged to base herself in the United States to train and to also escape the weight of expectancy on her shoulders after her rise in the women’s game.
But she said she will never leave her Hyderabad home.
“Everything I am today, I am because of India,” she told AFP.
“Of course there are lots of times when you just want your privacy. It’s hard when you are one in a billion,” added Mirza referring to the lack of other similarly talented women players in the sub-continent.
Mirza enjoyed a French Open breakthrough here on Wednesday when she won her first ever match at Roland Garros.
She eased past a hapless Alberta Brianti of Italy 6-1, 6-1 to set-up a second round clash against Serbian seventh seed Ana Ivanovic and register her first win at the claycourt Grand Slam in three attempts.
It was also her first win of 2007 on clay.
Mirza wore a heavy bandage to protect her right knee which she injured in Qatar in March and which kept her off the tour for two months.
But she showed no ill effects from the problem in a dominant 52-minute win over Brianti.
“Clay is not my favourite surface but it was great to get a feel for the surface. It’s my first win in singles here and I played a great match.
“I’m happy to be back on the court. There are few things more depressing than being in a wheelchair which I was after surgery.
“But I was lucky in that the injury wasn’t as bad as it could have been. If it had been worse I could have been out for six to eight months. It was also a blessing in disguise as I had time to spend with my family and friends.”
During her time out of the game, Mirza also found time to commentate on her second love - cricket.
However, it coincided with India’s infamous first round exit at the World Cup in the Caribbean.
She said she sympathised with the trials of the likes of cricketers Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly.
“There is always pressure for them to do well. But I told them at least there are 11 of you. There’s just one of me. There are always a lot of people who want you to do well.
“You just have to learn to block it out.”
Mirza said she was looking forward to facing Ivanovic, an old rival from their junior days.
“There will be zero pressure on me. She has just won the Berlin title. I feel good and I’m looking forward to it.”