New Delhi:Sania Mirza's decision not to play in India to avoid being dragged into controversies on Monday evoked sympathetic reactions in the tennis fraternity with some former players even urging her to reconsider the decision.
The 21-year-old Sania, Asia's top women's player and ranked 29th in the world, pulled out of next month's Bangalore Open, saying it was increasingly becoming difficult for her to cope with such petty controversies dogging her career.
Former Davis Cup captain Akhtar Ali sympathised with the
way Sania was being treated and described her decision as "unfortunate" for the sport in the country.
"It is a sad day for Indian sports. It is very unfortunate. She is not well. She did not have a good time at the Australian Open. And on top of that she is being made the subject of controversies every now and then. Some people are repeatedly hassling her. This is all sheer politics," Ali said.
Ali said Sania had helped the sport in the country in a big way but in return she was getting such troubles.
"Stars can influence youngsters more than even parents.
She has also influenced hundreds of youngsters in the country to take up the game in a big way. We should all now ensure that she is not hassled in this way and allow her to carry on with her game and life," Ali said.
"She is young. In this age one loves to wear whatever dress one likes. She can't go anywhere. I've been told that She had to go to a party in Hyderabad wearing a burqa," Ali said.
Ever since her breakthrough 2005 season, Sania has been battling controversies ranging from her on court attire being dubbed indecent by Islamic fundamentalists to the recent flag controversy during the Hopman Cup in December last year.
Coach Enrico Piperno, with whom Sania travelled to Bangkok as part of the Federation Cup team, hoped that Sania reconsidered her decision.
"It is her personal decision. We have to respect it. The pressure of controversies became too much for her. Then there was the media also. I hope she reconsiders her decision," he said.
"Her game is a treat to watch. In this respect Indian tennis buffs will lose out," he added.
Former Indian player Vijay Amritraj also expressed shock at such an extreme step taken by the Hydrabad girl.
"I am dumbstruck. She is the best not just in India but in the whole Asia. In my time, to play in India was such a big thing," he said.
Ace tennis player Mahesh Bhupathi, whose company 'Globosport' manages Sania's career, said the decision to pull out of the Bangalore Open, the only WTA event in the country, was a "one-off" instance so that her career was not affected by these controversies.
"It is not a permanent decision. It is only for this year that she will not play in India," said Bhupathi, who also plays mixed doubles with Sania.
"She has really been pained by all that has happened in the last few months. It is really unfortunate. We want that she should have the right frame of mind when playing in tournaments", he said.
Former Davis Cupper Vishal Uppal said she was surprised at Sania's decision to pull out of the Bangalore Open.
"She said she has done it to avoid controversies, but I think she has created another controversy by opting out", Uppal said.
Sania told a press conference in Hyderabad yesterday that she had been advised by her manager not to play "because a lot
has been happening in the past few months."
"Every time I have played in India, there has been some kind of problem. So we just thought it was better not to play
this time," she said.