MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Sania Mirza, at the centre of controversy in India for reportedly disrespecting her national flag, admitted on Tuesday she had considered quitting the sport over the row.
But the 21-year-old, who advanced to the second round of the Australian Open with a 6-4 6-2 win over Iroda Tulyaganova of Uzbekistan, said it was only a fleeting thought and she expected to be around for a while yet.
“I think a lot of thoughts went through my head in the last couple of weeks,” Mirza told reporters.
“One of the thoughts was that, but I wouldn’t say it was serious enough that I am going to quit right now.”
Mirza is the subject of a court summons in Bhopal after a private citizen made a complaint under the country’s Prevention of Insult to the National Honour Act.
The controversy surrounds a photograph taken at the Hopman Cup mixed team event in Perth, played at the beginning of the year, that appeared to show Mirza’s bare feet resting near the national flag.
The maximum punishment for the offence is a three-year jail term, but Mirza, one of her country’s biggest sporting heroes, said she would never do anything to hurt India.
“I just know that I would not do anything to disrespect my country” she said.
“I love my country, I wouldn’t be playing Hopman Cup otherwise, but besides that I am not allowed to comment.”
Mirza admitted, though, that her preparations for the year’s first grand-slam event had been affected by the controversy.
“It’s not easy to deal with things like that off the court,” she said.
“Obviously there are some misunderstandings happening. I am not super-human, so it does affect me a little bit.
“I am not a politician here, to outsmart people and try to fight. That’s not what I am trying to do - I am trying to play tennis, I am 21, and I am trying to do the best I can.
“However I try and block it out, it’s still at the back of my mind. (But) under the circumstances, I am just glad I came through the first round.”
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