NEW DELHI Feb 4 Sania Mirza will boycott all
Indian tournaments, including next month's WTA Bangalore Open,
after being dragged into a series of controversies at home in
the last two months.
The 21-year-old Asian number one said she had been advised
by her manager and mixed doubles partner Mahesh Bhupathi to skip
the tournament starting on March 3.
"At this moment, I have been advised by my manager not to
play," she told reporters on Monday in her hometown of
Mirza, who emerged a youth icon since becoming the first
Indian to win a WTA tour event in 2005, would have been the big
draw alongside American sisters Serena and Venus Williams.
But in the face of mounting criticism, she said she had
thought about ending her playing career.
The world number 29 has been summoned by a court in the
central city of Bhopal after allegedly showing disrespect to the
Indian flag, punishable by a jail sentence if proved, during the
Hopman Cup in Perth last month.
She was also forced to apologise to mosque officials in her
hometown for shooting an advert on its premises in December
after a complaint of trespass was filed against her to the
Mirza has also faced opposition from religious Muslim groups
for playing in a normal tennis attire.
"A lot has been happening in the last few months, everytime
I have played in India there has been some kind of problem so we
just thought it was better not to play at this point," said
Mirza, who reached the Australian Open women's singles third
round and the mixed doubles final with Bhupathi.
"I don't think it was an extreme reaction at all," Mirza
told the NDTV channel. "There is something or the other
happening. It is not easy to be dealing with stuff like that. I
felt great lows in the last few weeks."
Bhupathi defended her decision to skip the event.
"The way things have panned out in the last few months is
very unfortunate," he told NDTV. "In the wake of two
controversies back-to-back it's probably the right thing for
Chief tournament organiser Sundar Raju said he heard Mirza's
comments only after being told by the national federation she
"Our role is to provide a platform for Indian players and
this is perhaps the highest platform," he told Reuters.
The Bangalore Open has been upgraded this year to Tier II
with a $600,000 prize money.
"I'd like to think most people would be happy to be playing
among their countrymen who made them a star," Raju added.
(Reporting by N.Ananthanarayanan; editing by Pritha Sarkar)