Sania Mirza reached the third round of the US Open where she lost to the world sixth seed Chakvetadze of Russia, but not before she proved her mettle both as a classy tennis player ranked 26th in the world and as a gutsy woman who will not dwindle under social pressures.
Ms. Mirza is undoubtedly one of a kind, in that she is the first female Indian to have made it in the first 50 of the WTA rankings and also the only Muslim woman to represent a country in international tennis. This sprightly young star who believes, "You have to find a way to win,"comes from Hyderabad, a city with a Muslim population large enough to make Urdu a second language in that Indian city. Sania enjoys immense celebrity status in India, more so in Hyderabad where she grew up and now resides. She has personal security guards that move with her anywhere she goes, and this is perhaps why she loves NY so much where this 20 year old can still shop incognito.
Over the last few years, Sania Mirza has been the focus of the Indian community, and it's partly because she openly professes: "Not everyone is perfect and just because I wear a miniskirt or just because I'm wearing pants or whatever it is doesn't make me a bad Muslim,...As long as I believe in God and I have my faith, I think that's good.". There were those in the community who censured her for her outspokenness, her dress code, and her participation in world tennis, but then there were also those who staunchly supported Sania as a great role model for Indian Muslim girls, who reportedly are still under represented in sports around the country. Ms. Mirza has faced accolades and brickbats like you can't imagine, but she still sports the same impish grin along with the 'I don't care' swagger that mark her for who she is : a female athlete ready to compete globally.
All credit is due to young Mirza for having stood her ground through some testing times in a world so clearly divided along religious lines, but something is also to be said about the country and its citizens that bore and bred a Sania Mirza. The fact that she has come thus far in the tennis world implies an inherent support for her and what she does from within the family, the community, and the country. Ms. Mirza's family, the Indian Muslim community, and Indians in general; you are truly deserving of credit for a job well done!
Well done Sania! Well done India!