In 44 BC, Julius Caesar — the most powerful of Roman Emperors — was murdered by a group of senators. They were led by Marcus Brutus, who had been a close friend of Caesar.
In a scene attributed to William Shakespeare’s play ‘Julius Caesar,’ Caesar began to resist the attack but resigned himself to his fate when he saw that his friend, Brutus, was amongst the plotters.
With his dying breath, he spoke the immortal words: Et tu, brute (And you, Brutus?); words that now signify utmost betrayal; words that probably describe how Sania Mirza felt when she was used as bait by the AITA to placate one of the ‘disgruntled stalwarts’ of Indian tennis.
In Indian sport, you expect the sports associations to do you no favours. At every step of the way, they make things difficult for you. And Sania — having come up despite the system — was no stranger to that. The associations play their politics but it is usually restricted to players of lesser stature and official posts.
The ‘big’ players, the ones who are doing well are usually left well alone. There will be the odd congratulatory message and some prize money will be doled out from time to time. Sometimes not even that.
“I have been fortunate to achieve a career best singles ranking of 27 in the world that has been only bettered by Vijay Amritraj (16) and Ramesh Krishnan (23) even amongst the men in the modern era. I have a career best doubles ranking of 7 in the world, which only Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi have bettered. I am the only Grand Slam champion from India apart from Mahesh and Leander,” she said in her press statement released last night.
“I believe I can expect a little more respect from the National Tennis Federation than what has been accorded to me even if they did not think it necessary to send me a simple congratulatory message after I had won my second Grand Slam title 3 weeks ago,” she further added.
So even though Sania was angry to be used as bait, she would have probably just shrugged it off. She would have seen it happen to so many of her peers that she would not even have batted an eyelid — I mean this is the association we are talking about. And she had not said anything about it till now.
However, the manner in which Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes dismissed her as a non-entity would have hurt her more. You expect your fellow players to respect you especially when you’ve achieved things that most Indians only dream of.
Instead, Sania was treated like a side-dish. Was she right to react the way she did? Yes, she was. Indeed, her brilliantly worded press statement was a slap in the face of not only the AITA but Bhupathi and Paes too.
Truth to be told, they deserved it. They were being so selfish that they forgot that the person they were talking about was the best woman tennis player to come out of the country. They also forgot that India’s best chance of an Olympics medal might just be in the mixed doubles.
Bhupathi and Sania just won the French Open. They have a pretty decent chance at Wimbledon too. But Leander wanted guarantees that she would play with him at the Olympics. And he wanted this guarantee not only from Sania but from the AITA also.
It was almost as if Sania didn’t exist. It was almost as if her opinion didn’t matter. But now the AITA, Vece Paes, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi know that she’s not only around but she can make herself heard when she wants to as well.
There was a time when Sania would wear t-shirts which would pretty much say what she had on her mind. At one Wimbledon, she wore one that said ‘Well-behaved women rarely make history.’
It’s that time of the year again and she’s showing that now, she doesn’t need t-shirts to say what she wants to anymore.
Here’s the full text of Sania Mirza’s press statement.