Finding her passion for tennis at a very young age, Sania became an instant sensation after she won the Wimbledon championship girl’s doubles title at the age of 16. She had a remarkable career during her late teens. She is a six-time grand slam champion and between August 2015 and February 2016, Sania and her Swedish partner Martina Hingis garnered 41 consecutive victories in doubles. She is currently world no.1 in women’s doubles category. Ace against odds is the autobiography penned down by Sania with the help of her father and mentor Imran Mirza and sports journalist Shivani Gupta.
Book: Ace Against Odds
Author: Sania Mirza with Imran Mirza and Shivani Gupta
Publisher: Harper Collins
I remember an incident from when I was about 10 years old. My parents were talking about a young tennis sensation named Sania Mirza, making India proud by winning several matches back to back. We were all proud of her achievements and as a young girl, her records were an inspiration for me as she barged into a male-dominated sports culture to make a niche of her own. But, with great fame, comes in the ugly mainstream media which mostly intends to focus on garnering maximum TRPs. Sania met with one controversy after the other and eventually when people heard her name, they talked about these controversies more than her Wimbledon victory at the age of 16. When she announced this book, I thought to myself, “Isn’t it a bit early for her to write an autobiography?”.
In an interview with Rajdeep Sardesai, she admitted to this and accentuated that, as the current world no.1 in women’s doubles, she believed that it is the right time and wanted to pen down all the major experiences. Above all, she felt that it was necessary to let people know her point of view regarding all the controversies she faced over the years. I have to confess that it was the major reason that drew me to this book. Sania is one of the influencers who proved that success is the best revenge and I was curious about what she wanted to say about the “flag controversy“, “London Olympics“ where she objected to pairing with Leander Paes in mixed doubles category, “the fatwa“ and her marriage to a Pakistan national player. While I was reading it, I came to know a lot more about her; her ambitions, achievements, dreams, her opinions about other players’ performances, her dynamic friendship with Martina Hingis and Mahesh Bhupathi, and her social work.
Ever since she discovered her passion for tennis, Sania began to work hard backed by constant motivation from her supportive parents. The funny yet touching situation where her mother convinced a coach to train her, her near death experiences while travelling (which will surely give you goosebumps) notably her encounter with ‘harthaal‘, the sacrifices she had to make and the major achievements she made as the first Indian woman. I couldn’t put the book down while reading those portions and at times, I felt motivated to play tennis myself. One of her major ambitions is to win every major title for India, emphasising her love for the nation. Her love for the country is highlighted at several other instances.
She also worked for the awareness of gender-biased sex selection, a cause introduced to her by Sushma Swaraj, for which she wrote columns in newspapers occasionally and expressed interest in women’s rights causes. She revealed about her dream to have more players in India and wishes to coach talented players after retirement. Now, everyone knows that apart from the flag controversy, her marriage to a Pakistani player is one of the major controversies surrounding her personal life. She handled that with grace without letting his husband’s nationality take up any substantial space in conversations. Her husband, Shoaib Malik, is talked about as someone who was very supportive of her career and considers himself as her No. 1 fan. It is evident to sense her frustration when she describes her near misses, in a bid to succeed against all odds created by the controversies. When she was branded as “Pakistan’s daughter-in-law“, she won the U.S cup eventually and dedicated the cup to India.
This book gives an insight into those aspects of Sania that we probably never knew, due to the controversies surrounding her, overshadowing her achievements. Sania has a “love-hate” relationship with the press; either people stood up for her firmly. Or, they scrutinised her to the point where she lost a major part in her career. As per Sania’s writing, the flag controversy conjured up land when the case was resolved, the news was limited to a small column. But this controversy gave the officials of Hopman cup (where Sania played for India) a wrong impression about India due to the circumstances of the controversy. Eventually, India was omitted out and Sania was not invited, the following year. Such instances will make your blood boil and media people should learn a thing or two before branding an influencer, who spend their blood and sweat for India, in such a baleful manner. Sania clarified on the fatwa controversy by defining the meaning of the word “fatwa“, which is misunderstood as “murder” threat by people. She substantiated further, regarding the issues she faced as a woman in a male-dominated world, limitations as a Muslim woman in an orthodox Muslim society and the little compromises every player makes to attain their goals.
The book is written in simple English with massive words scattered here and there which will tempt you to refer the dictionary. A major drawback I felt was, as someone who knows very less about the game, I did find some details about the games confusing. You will understand those facets better if you know the rules and methods of the game. Just like Sachin Tendulkar’s “Playing It My Way”, the book focussed more about her journey in sports. Her achievements are primarily based on her dreams and this is well described in the final pages. We could understand the emotions she went through during each phase of her journey. Some people might find it boring, but, as a player, as a woman, Sania has achieved a lot and her journey is inspiring to witness. I recommend this book if you are a sports fan.
Featured Image Credit: timesofindia.indiatimes.com