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Wed 27 Feb 2008 07:21 AM

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Indian star Mirza thought about quitting sport

Sania Mirza, India's first female sports celebrity, has admitted that she almost thought about quitting.

Sania Mirza, India's first female sports celebrity, admitted that she reached a point recently when she wondered whether it was any longer worth going through what she endured.

Mirza, a Muslim, has been criticised by Islamist groups for wearing short skirts while competing, found it necessary to apologise for filming an advertisement near an historic mosque, and is also apparently being taken to court for alleged disrespect after photographs showed her bare feet resting near the Indian flag.

"There are times when you are low and lonely, and that's when your family come into play," she said, agreeing with a questioner who asked if there was a price to pay for her celebrity.

Also asked if she had considered quitting after the flag controversy, she said: "That was one of my passing thoughts."

"I thought was it worth it to go through all this. But here in Dubai I am winning and that's more important than what happened two-and-a-half months ago," she said, referring to victory in her opening match, by 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 against Vera Dushevina, a Russian qualifier.

Mirza was asked to compare her situation with how the Indian cricketers cope, some of whom she knows.

"We all have our set of pressures and expectations to deal with," she answered."

"But it's at a very different level."

"At the end of the day there are eleven of them in the Indian cricket team. Eleven take the loss and eleven take the victory."

"I don't know how many people have gone through the controversies I have, even in the cricket team."

"We are from a country where we have not had a woman play tennis at this level and become as big a celebrity as I have been."

"I am still dealing with things at a very different level. I put my foot up because I am cramping and a law suit follows - I don't think it happens in many countries."

"Maybe it will take ten years to get used to it."

Mirza, ranked 32 in the world, now has a difficult task to remain in the Dubai Open as her opponent on Wednesday is Jelena Jankovic, the world number four from Serbia.

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