|Height:||5 ft 8 in|
Sania Mirza was India's "Darling of the Tennis Court" until April 12th 2010 when she upset many of her fans by marrying the former Pakistan cricket captain Shoaib Malik in Hyderabad. Many Indians think of Pakistan as their deadly enemy and they cannot forget the country was linked to the devastating bombing of Mumbai when the famous Taj Mahal Hotel was badly damaged. Only four years earlier Mirza had been presented with the Arjina Award by the Indian Government.
Born in Mumbai on November 15th 1986 she was brought up in Hyderabad as a religious Shia Muslim. She was trained by her sports journalist father and other members of the family and she began her tennis career in 2003. She is now the highest ranked female tennis player ever from India and the first Indian woman to win a Grand Slam title, having won the Australian Open Mixed Doubles in 2009 with partner Mahesh Bhupathi.
Mirza's tennis career has always been marred by controversy. She is a practising Muslim who prays five times a day and fasts during Ramadan so there were many complaints about her short tennis clothes. Muslim religious leaders said a Muslim girl should never wear mini skirts and the more famous she became the more photographs there appeared of her in the papers in provocative poses and some groups said she should not wear such revealing clothes.
Her views at a press conference in 2005 on safe sex got her into trouble and it was said that she was a corrupting influence on the youth in India. She quickly had to clarify that she did not approve of pre-marital sex.
When she was watching a match in the Hopman Cup with her bare feet on the table in front her picture appeared and it was noticed there was a small flag on the table. She was branded as someone who had insulted the national flag and she was nearly prosecuted.
Her doubles partnership with Israeli player Shahar Peer also got her into trouble as Israel was perceived to be anti-Muslim.
She redeemed herself when she announced her engagement to childhood friend Sohrab Mirza (no relation). The families had known each other for a long time and marriage between the couple had been discussed before. They got engaged on July 10th 2009 at an elaborate party ceremony attended by 300 guests and traditional gifts were exchanged by the fiancÚ and fiancee's families.
But on January 28th 2010 Sania Mirza announced the engagement was off. She said the parting was amicable but the two were incompatible. Sohrab found it challenging to cope with the demands of his fiancÚ as she was travelling a lot to play tennis.
She caused outrage in the country who had adored her when she publicly announced, shortly after breaking off her engagement to Mirza, that she intended to marry Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik on 12th April that year. It was revealed they had met six years before and after meeting in a restaurant they had started dating. Protestors burnt an effigy of her on Mumbai on March 31st 2010.
But more controversy was to come. The engagement turned into a media circus when it was revealed Malik was already married to an Indian girl Ayesha Siddiqui. Her parents took legal action against him but he said he had never met the girl. Then he admitted a telephone marriage had taken place when he was 18 but he was tricked into it because she had sent him a photograph of a different woman. He was forced to sign a divorce paper before he and Mirza could wed.
The marriage took place as scheduled at the Tay Krishna Hotel in Hyderabad and she wore the same red sari her mother had worn at her on Nikah (wedding) 25 years before. They made their home in Dubai but rumours are now circulating in the Indian papers that she is unhappy with her playboy husband's affairs with young women and she wants to return to India.