Bhupathi praises Mirza after controversy | sports | Hindustan Times
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Bhupathi praises Mirza after controversy

After Sania Mirza's constant brush with controversies, Mahesh Bhupati backs the Indian to break into the Top 20.

sports Updated: Jan 22, 2008 12:31 IST
Simon Cambers

Indian tennis sensation Sania Mirza has handled her off-court woes with great maturity and is on track for a spot in the world's top 20, multiple grand-slam champion Mahesh Bhupathi said.

Bhupathi told Reuters he was full of praise for his compatriot for the way she has dealt with accusations she disrespected her national flag.

Mirza admitted last week that she had considered quitting over a court case that could see her jailed for up to three years, but battled on to reach the Australian Open third round, where she pushed Wimbledon champion Venus Williams hard.

Bhupathi, who is Mirza's manager, is also partnering the 21-year-old in the mixed doubles in Melbourne and said she had showed great maturity in the face of the accusations.

"It's very unfortunate what's going on," Bhupathi told Reuters.

"It's one random human being, who I don't think anyone really wants to deal with, but I guess that's the price to pay for being popular, doing what you do, doing it for the country.

"So be it, we'll deal with it. She's done a great job (in coping). I didn't expect her to pull through two matches, especially her second one, when she was down and out and she found a way to win.

"She is mentally very tough and she showed that this week again."

Mirza is the subject of a court summons in Bhopal after a private citizen made a complaint under the country's Prevention of Insult to the National Honour Act.


The controversy surrounds a photograph taken at the Hopman Cup mixed team event in Perth, played at the beginning of the year, that appeared to show Mirza's bare feet resting near the national flag.

Mirza ended the year ranked 32nd and Bhupathi said he believed she has the game and the character to get into the top 20.

"I think Indians as people, we mature a little later," he said.

"Sania started fairly young but she is improving every year, maturing as a tennis player as well. She had a good run here, a good match against Venus (Williams), had her opportunities.

"I think she'll aim to finish top 20-30 this year, I guess that's the goal for her.

"I think she needs to strategically play points a little better and to improve the consistency on her first serve.

"She's aware of the things she needs to work on and as long as she is willing to put in the time, I don't see why it won't happen.

"There is no way she is going to be number 30 in the world just on talent. She is putting in the work and the good thing is she knows there is a lot more work to put in."