Calcutta: The city is gearing up for its yearly tennis extravaganza — the third edition of the Sunfeast Open. And like in the previous years, Sania Mirza is once again the cynosure.
But unlike the past, she is keeping the city on tenterhooks with the uncertainty over her participation. The young lady in question landed in the city late on Sunday.
Sania is nursing an injury to her right wrist. This has prevented her from practising since she returned from the US Open, where she lost in the third round to Anna Chakvetadze. She is keen to play — to not disappoint her fans as well as defend valuable points from last year’s semi-final showing. The decision will, of course, be dictated by her wrist.
It goes without saying that the tournament would be dealt a body blow if Sania does have to pull out.
“Why in India, even abroad the Sania magic is at work. She is a big attraction the world over. And that is magnified many times when she is playing a tournament in her homeland,” says Naresh Kumar, former India Davis Cup captain.
“But if you weigh points against injury, the latter has to get importance. A wrist injury could be career threatening. It should certainly not be fiddled around with,” he adds.
Former Davis Cup coach Akhtar Ali reiterates that if Sania feels even 25 per cent discomfort when she hits the ball in the practice courts here, she should not play. “At the Indoor, the court is slow, the ball is heavy, which could worsen her injury. She should hit a few balls and see how she feels,” says Akhtar.
Akhtar feels people would travel miles to watch Sania live. For a Daniela Hantuchova or a Marion Bartoli match, the television would suffice. In fact, he points out that people have come all the way from Bihar and Jharkhand just to see the Indian idol in action.
The organisers, however, think differently. A tournament which boasts of world No. 10 Bartoli and No. 12 Hantuchova does not revolve only around Sania, emphasises Globosport vice-president Anirban Das Blah. And no, he adds, ticket sales are not being affected by this uncertainty over Sania participation.
The organisers also add that ticket sales, going by the experience of the past two years, usually pick up from the second day. There has never been much of advance sales.
For tennis purists, though, Bartoli in action would be no mean treat either. Naresh, for instance, finds her double-handed forehands and backhands stimulating. “A refreshing style of play, as distinct from the stereotypes we get to see nowadays,” he says, adding that Hantuchova is a good player too with big groundshots.
Calcutta may be ready to watch a Bartoli and a Hantuchova in action. But it would be no exaggeration to say that if the young lady who put India on the world tennis stage fails to swing her racket, it would break the city’s heart.