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Sania brings glamour to the Games
December 11, 2006 11:08 IST
Last Updated: December 11, 2006 11:09 IST
Sania Mirza is attracting huge crowds and adding a big dose of glamour to the Asian Games tennis competitions.
On Sunday she defeated South Korea's Yoo Mi in straight sets to reach the quarter-finals before a huge number of Indian expatriates who crammed into the stands, roaring gleefully for every point she won.
The scene was repeated as Mirza and Shikha Uberoi were upset in the doubles by Japan's Ryoko Fuda and Tomoko Yonemura.
By contrast, Chinese top-seed Li Na's easy victory over Gumulya Sandy of Indonesia appeared a sideshow.
The 20-year-old Mirza has rapidly become a prime youth and fashion icon in India since she became the first Indian woman to capture a WTA title at her hometown Hyderabad last year.
Combined with her climb into the top 50 in the world rankings, another Indian first for a woman, her success has led to the type of frenzied attention by media and advertisers normally reserved for Indian cricketers and film stars.
On Sunday, in a scene typical of Indian film-shooting locations, a huge crowd surrounded Mirza as she sat under a tree chatting with team mate Mustafa Ghous.
A security guard was at hand to restrain over-enthusiastic fans.
Indian TV channels, without the rights to shoot inside the venue, often find it difficult to ask Mirza to step out for interviews because of the milling crowds.
A packed crowd of Indian fans also stayed until 1.30 am local time on the rain-hit Friday when India were toppled by Taiwan in the women's team tennis gold medal match.
"It is great to play before such a big crowd," Mirza told reporters after the doubles defeat. "All are supporting, so it feels like I'm playing at home.
"They will obviously push me all the way for the rest of the week."
Indian fans Biju Mathew and Cesil Thomas finished work at their Doha restaurant before rushing to watch her play and then pushed and jostled to take her autograph.
"No silver, we want her to take the gold," Thomas said. "Most of us have come to watch her.
"Last time many of us didn't get seats, so today we were here well in advance."
China's Li merely answered questions about fitness and form.
"After my loss in the team event, everyone has been telling me to relax," said Li, who won easily despite an ankle injury.
Doha Asian Games 2006: The Complete Coverage