| Sania in Hyderabad on Thursday. (AFP)
Hyderabad, Sept. 8: Sania Mirza’s chutzpah goes beyond the sharply angled backhand crosscourt.
The earrings, the short skirt, the T-shirt (“I’m cute”), the pressure of the one-billion people, clich'-ridden questions abroad about a Muslim girl doing extraordinary things such as playing tennis wearing clothes as any other girl and then, of course, the game itself.
Given the odds stacked against her, Sania needs all the chutzpah she can summon as she swivels to strike the lethal forehand.
“Every step that I take is analysed. Every word that I say is analysed, every skirt that I wear is analysed. Everything that I do is analysed,” she said on her return to hometown Hyderabad.
But she’s getting used to all the attention ' “come on, I’m just an 18-year-old girl having some fun”, she had said.
She’s having fun, all right. And when she has fun herself, she lights up quite a few taut faces around her.
“Inshallah, I will be world number one some day and will continue to be the first Indian woman to do a lot more things,” Sania said.
Chutzpah, did you say'
She’s 18, she smiles sweetly, and she’s truly gone where no Indian woman has by playing in the fourth round of a Grand Slam event. So, no one minds the bravery ' in a tired Indian cricketer’s mouth it would have sounded foolhardy.
Sania, though, said she was not in competition with cricket. “Thank you, Sania, for taking us away from cricket!” ' a banner at the Hyderabad Open had said earlier in the year.
Say that again. But don’t expect Sania to agree. “I’m not competing with that game. In fact, it’s my favourite game and I am a little fan of Sachin Tendulkar,” she said.
And, boy, was she concerned about the team’s topsy-turvy progress, ending in final tragedy, in Zimbabwe! Cricket is not American TV’s most popular sport.
“Being in the US, I was worried and wanted to know about Indian matches.”
She didn’t sound too worked up, but yesterday a religious scholar apparently issued a fatwa, saying Islam does not permit a woman to wear skirts, shorts and sleeveless tops.
“Veil can be dropped on certain occasions but not the way the girl is going about and playing in all those countries,” the scholar told a TV channel.
Sania, who turned up in a colourful salwar-kameez, held her reserve. “This is the way I dress and people have to accept the way I play and dress,” she said.
Tennis was once played in ankle-length dresses. Sania wasn’t born then.
Speaking of tennis, Sania plays her next tournament in Bali and then heads to Calcutta later this month. “At the beginning of the year, I had said that I will emerge within the top 50. Now I am number 35 in the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) ratings,” she said.
“You will have to wait till December to hear my new projections and self-imposed targets which I will definitely achieve.”
“Just give me some time. We are getting too impatient here. Wait till December.”
No wonder the 6-2, 6-1 loss to Maria Sharapova loss hasn’t left her shaken a bit. “She (Sharapova) has played more tournaments and won more prizes than me. Stroke-wise we are equal but her service and some returns were good. Hope I’ll improve and will be playing more matches against her.”
What she didn’t say was that Sharapova has trained in the US while she’s just about started getting international class coaching, which makes a world of difference.
What she did say, though, was this ' “No one said that a girl from a third world country is playing the fourth round of a Grand Slam.”