When Ayesha Siddiqui, in one of her several telephonic interviews to news channels, wondered why Sania Mirza announced her wedding with Shoaib Malik within weeks of breaking up with Hyderabad-based bakery owner’s son, Sohrab Mirza, she posed a question that many people have been asking.
Some leading Hyderabadi Muslims who are well acquainted with the tennis star’s family claim that Sania has been interested in Shoaib Malik for over five years but had agreed to an engagement with Sohrab to please her family.
‘‘The Adil Mirza (Sohrab’s) family is very well respected in Hyderabad and the two families have known each other for long. Sania’s parents were not too keen on her marrying Shoaib earlier as they were not particularly pleased with his background,’’ says a family friend.
Why was the engagement called off? While the Mirza camp has been claiming the two were ‘‘incompatible’’, there is speculation that the break-up came because she was insistent on marrying Shoaib Malik. The family apparently gave up its earlier opposition rationalizing that Malik was, after all, a well-known personality.
Some family friends insist that Sania is completely smitten by Malik but others say that it’s not a simple love affair. They say it is a ‘‘strategic’’ move where both partners have a common destination in mind - Dubai.
Sania, who crashed out of the Dubai Open earlier this year, has routinely been extended a warm welcome by the people and the government there, which was glad to host a tennis star who had become a poster girl for their local community’s young girls.
Therefore, when she decided to settle down in Dubai with Shoaib, it did not surprise many. It wasn’t just neutral ground, but one that would leverage the careers of the two sportspersons, says another family acquaintance.
Sania has been slipping consistently in her World Tennis Associations rankings and Malik has been banned for a year by the Pakistan Cricket Board. On its part, Dubai is trying hard to turn into a sports destination and is in search of sports stars who can showcase the upcoming facilities in the city. ‘‘Sania wanted to settle down in Dubai and wanted someone who could support that.
A lot of World Tennis Associations tournaments like Dubai Open and Qatar Open are being held there and she gets appearance money for these tournaments,’’ says a sports analyst.
If she is based in Dubai, she will become a bigger star as there are hardly any sports personalities in Dubai, which is currently investing heavily in sports. There is also talk of a cricket league on the lines of IPL and this could possibly be a strong reason for Malik to be stationed in Dubai.