Sania Mirza has the attitude of a champion.

All champions have attitude. It is an integral ingredient of success. It finds expression in different ways depending on the personality of the individual concerned.

In Virat Kohli it is in your face, bold and brash; in Rahul Dravid it comes across as more civilised, but — make no mistake — not recognising the iron fist beneath the velvet glove would be foolish indeed.

Sania Mirza’s attitude is like a high-powered shell, catching you square between the eyes. I first experienced it in living colour when we happened to share a stage along with the actor Govinda and a couple of others at an event many years ago when she started making waves as the great Indian hope in singles. We were being interviewed by some of the press contingent before going on stage.

When the event concluded, several reporters crowded around her in terms of attractive journalistic targets, physically or otherwise, Govinda and I were no contest  bombarding her with questions. “You had your chance the first time around” she said in icy disdain, before doing the female version of swaggering off.

She pronounced the word ‘chance’ with a flat US accent, rather than the British (and Indian) one, an affectation which afflicts her from time to time, depending on the audience. “Wow” I thought to myself, “that’s telling ’em!” as the hapless reporter withdrew abashed.

Since then, her attitude has manifested itself in multifarious ways, each scoring a spectacular passing shot. Her brushing off the clerics who declared her short skirts as un-Islamic was applauded by all right-thinking persons in India and probably across the border as well.

Her marriage to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik, probably to the dismay of the many who might have fancied their chances, was another example of her sturdy independence. If you don’t like it, her manner suggested, you can put it where the monkey stuffs the nuts.

Over the years, she has mellowed, her demure downcast eyes when she was being interviewed along with Martina Hingis on TV recently being a case in point. Her US accent has thankfully tiptoed into the background, though it still tends to peep forth on the odd occasion.

Ironically, the softening of her imperious ways has been in inverse proportion to her amazing rise through the ranks. Today, as she stands as No 1 in women’s doubles, I stand first in the serried ranks of millions of our countrymen who pay tribute to her excellence. May she long reign as such! Attitude? Hey, what’s that?

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