Sania Mirza decided to stay away from the upcoming $600,000 WTA Bangalore Open, citing the controversies that follow her whenever she plays in India but her decision could well trigger another debate. She told reporters in Hyderabad on Monday that her manager from Globosport advised her not to play.
"Every time I play in India, there has been a problem. So we just thought it was better not to play this time," said Sania, who braved a hamstring injury to play the doubles rubber against Hong Kong to help India stave off relegation in the Fed Cup play-off on Saturday.
Sunder Raju, tournament director and secretary of the Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association, expressed disappointment over her decision. "The people of this country have made you a star, it is for you to draw energy from them ... If she says that playing in India is creating problems for her, then I would take it on face value," he told HT from Bangalore.
Raju confirmed that Sania had not even entered the event. "The entries closed a week ago and we received the acceptance list from the WTA only yesterday. That's when we realised she has not entered. I am an association man and my job is to provide a platform for the players. What could be more pleasurable than playing in front of your home fans?”
Sania's stock has gone up ever since she broke into the top-30 in world rankings last year. Consequently, the issue of appearance money was bound to crop up. "In today's world, there are commercial issues. We will try and do whatever it takes within reasonable limits to make sure the player plays," said Raju.
He, however, said that a demand for an increase in appearance money was not made. “When we became a Tier 2 event (in November), the AITA did call her and had a conversation. AITA informed us that she would be playing and that was our assumption. If there was any issue, they should have told us,” he said.
Kolkata may lose Sunfeast
The $170,000 Sunfeast Open may not be held in Kolkata this year. The dates clashing with Durga Puja and the lack of proper practice courts (not meeting WTA regulations) might force a venue change. The event, normally held in September, was rescheduled to October because of the Olympics. But Globosport (the organisers) MD Mahesh Bhupathi said they would still try. "As of now, it stays in Kolkata," he told HT. “The Kingfisher Open in Mumbai is sometimes held during Ganpati festival.”