Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Indian Superstar with Rally Call to the Girls at Home; Teenager Sania Mirza Can Walk Largely Unnoticed around SW19 but She Is a Marketing Phenomenon in Her Homeland, Reports Stuart James

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Indian Superstar with Rally Call to the Girls at Home; Teenager Sania Mirza Can Walk Largely Unnoticed around SW19 but She Is a Marketing Phenomenon in Her Homeland, Reports Stuart James

Article excerpt

Byline: STUART JAMES

BACK home in India, Sania Mirza is a sporting icon.

Her status as the nation's greatest ever female tennis player has brought adulation from fans that has already made her a marketing phenomenon, but amid the tranquillity of SW19, the 18-year-old's progress into the second round of Wimbledon has passed by almost unnoticed.

Yet Mirza, who takes on the US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova today on Centre Court, is anything but resentful for the lack of publicity she has received in England.

In fact, for a teenager who cannot set foot out of her home in Hyderabad without a security guard standing by her side, a rare chance to experience the state of being anonymous is bliss.

"I can just walk in England, people don't recognise me here," said Mirza.

"I can't do that in India so every step that I take here I enjoy it.

"In India people have not really seen a woman come up through tennis and they're obviously very excited about it.

"It makes my life very restricted. If I was at home I would rather stay in than go out for a coffee with friends because I know that when I'm sitting somewhere, everyone is looking at me.

"There is no privacy and I would rather not have a security guard look at me 12 hours a day.

"It is tough and it gets to you sometimes, but I think when you come into a sport like this it's very demanding physically and mentally.

"I never thought I would reach this level so fast in my life, and the amount of fame and adulation that I get in India is immense."

Mirza, who was once offered sponsorship deals with 18 different companies in the space of a week, is rewriting the record books in India almost every time she sets foot on court.

In January, she became the first Indian woman to reach the third round of a grand slam before losing to Serena Williams in the last 32 of the Australian Open.

A month later Mirza won her first WTA title - something no other Indian has achieved, and in March she claimed her first significant scalp by defeating Kuznetsova in straight sets in Dubai.

The latter result suggests the young Indian enjoys a psychological edge ahead of today's clash. …

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