Sixteen-year-old Sania Mirza, the first Indian girl to figure in the top 10 in the world junior tennis rankings, has signed up with doubles ace Mahesh Bhupathi's sports management firm, Globosport.
The signing follows the Hyderabad girl's decision last week to come out of the All India Tennis Association's sponsorship and pursue corporate patronage.
"The decision represents a significant landmark in Indian tennis, with Sania becoming the first women's tennis player to sign with a professional sports management firm," Globosport said in a statement announcing the signing.
"The step also allows women's tennis to step into the previously male bastion of sports sponsorship that has traditionally been dominated by the big five -- cricket, racing, golf, football and men's tennis," the statement added.
Under the terms of the agreement, the firm will be responsible for raising all necessary funds for Sania to launch an onslaught on the WTA circuit. This includes the costs of travel, accommodation, coaching and equipment. In addition, the company would also help her in entering tournaments and obtaining wild cards for WTA Tour events.
"Instead of just exploiting established stars, we want to promote all sports, and support the best young sportspersons in India, people who can become global stars. Sania clearly falls into this category. She is the best young women's player in Asia, and the best in Indian tennis history," Globosport MD and CEO Mahesh Bhupathi said.
"We have a unique opportunity to help her reach the top echelons of the sport and I urge companies to look beyond the over-cluttered cricket space, and support this outstanding talent," he added.
The statement also quoted Sania as saying: "For me to make a serious impact on the senior ranks, I needed to have a world-class professional set-up where I could focus on the tennis, and not worry about how I would fund my travel and coaching.
"I have been working with Mahesh's father, C G K Bhupathi, as my coach for a while. I also worked with Mahesh outside of the courts. Both the experiences have been very, very positive.".