Monday, March 29, 2010

Sports: Two girls from Hyderabad

You have probably guessed already that I am talking about the tennis ace Sania Mirza and badminton star Saina Nehwal. The former was born in Bombay (now Mumbai) on November 15, 1986. Saina’s date of birth is March 17, 1990. She was born in Haryana. The parents of both moved to Hyderabad. And both have done India proud.

Surprisingly, both Sania and Saina came into reckoning in 2003. Sania won the Wimbledon Girls Doubles title that year partnering Alisa Kleybanova of Russia. The same year the then 13 years old Saina won the Czechoslovakia Junior Open.

Sania Mirza’s rise in the women’s tennis arena was meteoric. India had never seen anything like that before. The whole nation stood up and cheered this beautiful girl who had become a star overnight. And she did not disappoint the millions. She became the first Indian lady to break into the coveted group of the world’s top 50 women tennis players.

Sania Mirza’s victorious march did not stop there. Even without winning many tournaments her rank kept on improving. In August 2007 her world singles rating was 27th, her best ever. Her top rank in doubles was 18.

Then the slide started. Probably the problems Sania faced took their toll. I had briefly mentioned that in a September 2008 post, At 22, can Sania Mirza make a comeback? . Subsequently she had to go through a broken engagement too. As on March 22, 2010, Sania Mirza’s rank was 92 in singles and 36 in doubles.

It is all so sad.

Saina Nehwal’s is a different story. She climbed the ladder slowly but surely. Apart from talent, steady hard work was her forte. Her potential was quite obvious to her father Dr. Harvir Singh and mother Usha Nehwal who was a former badminton champion in Hariyana. They gave her total support.

Saina was initially coached by Dronacharya Award winner SM Arif. She also had a stint with the former Indonesian badminton star Atik Jauhari. Now she is with the badminton academy of the Indian legend P. Gopichand.

2008 saw stunning performances by Saina Nehwal. She achieved what no other Indian woman had till then. She won Chinese Taipei Open, Commonwealth Youth Games, and World Junior Championships. She also reached the quarterfinals in the Beijing Olympics.

Sterling performances followed in 2009. Her world rank that year was 7, which another Indian lady, Ami Ghia, had reached in 1983. The year 2010 started on a high note for Saina Nehwal. She reached the semi finals of the All England Championships and her world rank has improved to 5. Outstanding achievement, at the age of 20.

Ami Ghia who is a national selector now says that Saina would become the World No.1 in course of time. The next two major events waiting for her are Asian Badminton Championships (New Delhi, April 12-18) and the Commonwealth Games (New Delhi, October 3-14).

It is possible that at one time Saina Nehwal was inspired by Sania Mirza’s achievements. Perhaps it is now the turn of Sania to take encouragement from the positive determination and dedicated effort displayed by the badminton ace.

Sania Mirza still has world class talent. If she applies herself single-mindedly, it may be possible for her to get into the group of top women tennis players. She is only reaching the age of 24. Many stars now ranked above her are older than that.

Anyway, India is proud of both these girls.

Also see: A rising hope squashed?


ER Ramachandran said...

Thanks for posting a subject of topical interest PAT!
While Saina's whose name was spelt as 'SANIA' by our biassed press many a time, has struggled hard and has come up step by step, not letting success going to her head, Sania Mirza had too much media attention making her lose the way somewhere along. Her enormous talent and hard work went awry when her personal life was subjected to relentless media blitzkrieg.This resulted in talent not reaching up to its full potential.

Both deserve accolades, as after P.T. Usha only these two have reached international level.

Kamini said...

Very nice post. I have followed Sania Mirza's career with great interest, and I always admired her for her determination and cheery spirit that did not flag in spite of all the nonsense that the media and the clerics flung at her. It could not have been easy to weather all that at such a young age.
I did not know much about Saina, so your post was most informative.

Meera's World said...

I hope she will still play after her wedding,for India.

Unknown said...

ERR, thank you.
Instant stardom and ‘media blitzkrieg’ as you aptly termed it did a great deal of damage to Sania Mirza.
I have been watching Saina Nehwal’s progress for quite some time now. I hope that she will achieve World No.1 position in the next five years.
It was nice watching her on TV yesterday receiving Padmashree Award from the President. Sania too had this honour around the same age.

Unknown said...

Kamini, thank you. There is much to be admired about Sania though so far she has been a disappointment. Keep on the look out for Saina Nehwal.

Unknown said...

Thank you Meera.
Women’s tennis is a minor sport in Pakistan. But Dilwar Abbas, that country’s tennis boss has already urged Sania Mirza to play for them after her wedding. Let us hope she sticks to India in tennis.

Sorcerer said...

very nice post.
I hope she plays for India..
and has a strong stand on the issue which is becoming more political

Nebu said...

After her marriage to Pak cricketer Shoaib Malik, Sania Mirza will probably play tennis for Pakistan in a burqua. Whichever way you look at it, she will lose her skirt for sure:-p


Very informative post. Sania's is a tale of how media can make or break a career. First the personalities are treated as demigods, and then trampled upon mercilessly. Both are harmful to a growing career.

Unknown said...

Sorcerer, I don't think there is any technical problem now in Sania continuing to play for India. But if she takes a Pakistani Passport it is unlikely that she would be allowed to represent India.

Unknown said...

Nebu, Pakistan is very keen on Sania playing for them. Perhaps some concessions in the dress code would be made.

Unknown said...

Raji, you are right about the media.