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Will marrying Shoaib Malik revive Sania Mirza's career?

Wednesday, 31 March 2010 - 12:53am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Having someone who understands and shares the constant pressure of expectations and media glare may be just what Sania needs.

The facts are still unfolding. What is clear is that Sania Mirza is getting married to Shoaib Malik. The couple will be based in Dubai where the former Pakistan captain, now serving a one-year ban from cricket, resides.

The 92nd-ranked Indian tennis star, still recuperating from a career-threatening wrist injury, will tie the knot in April, not even a month after the announcement which has sent Indo-Pak media in a tizzy!

In keeping with the tradition of big, fat Indian (and Pakistani) weddings, before the actual reception, members of both families will visit each other and both parties have already applied and perhaps even got the visas.

In her hour of celebration, Sania wants privacy. “I have been in the constant glare for too long and would appreciate privacy at this very personal moment in my life,” she was quoted as saying.

But it is unlikely that her wish would be respected since this is not just a wedding but a bridge between two bitter neighbours forever consigned to be at war whether on the sporting turf or on the battlefield.

Shoaib has hit the right notes. He announced that Sania is welcome to continue her career. “I fully understand what it takes to be an international sportsperson and I will support Sania in her career as long as she wishes to play,” he said.

It is an important point, for the buzz is that this is where Sania’s engagement with Sohrab broke down.

But what will this marriage mean for Sania’s career, a graph that seems to be perennially heading southwards these days?

In 2007, Sania was ranked 27 in WTA rankings, had sponsors scurrying after her with lucrative contracts and Saina (Nehwal) was considered more a typographic error than a rising badminton star. She was considered the most dangerous floater on the tour and her forehand one of the most lethal the game has seen.

In just three years, Sania has tumbled out of global and maybe even Indian consciousness, thanks largely to her injury-prone physique and lack of stability in life. The tour can be ruthless, its demands all consuming.

One has to look at Belgian former world No.1 Kim Clijsters. In 2007, a mentally and physically exhausted Kim announced her shock retirement from the game at 24. Post marriage and a baby, she came back and scripted a fairytale Grand Slam victory.

Marriage also had a calming influence over Lindsay Davenport, another former world No.1.

Though Sania isn’t growing any younger, having a companion who can understand and even share the constant pressure of expectations and media glare may be just what she needs.

However, both are high profile athletes and may have to keep doing a balancing act between their personal and professional lives. How well they do it, could be the key.

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