Not as strong as the current lot of players, she brought in the crowds like few of them could. Long before she was seeding in any Grand Slam tournament, her growing popularity ensured that her matches were being scheduled on Centre Court.
She was the darling of a nation with few sporting icons to look upto, and her combination of raw talent and stunning looks ensured she had an equally large fan following outside the country.
Great things were expected to Sania Mirza, but somehow she never quite lived upto the promise she displayed. One of the first endorsement deals she signed was for a manufacturer of gold jewellery- that turned out to be prophetic. After the initial few months, she started generating more column inches for her lifestyle than for her game. Link-ups with Bollywood stars, controversies over her sartorial choices.
Suddenly, the Golden Girl could do no right. She was the brand ambassador for a campaign to save the girl child, but generated more column inches when Muslim clerics criticised her for wearing "un-Islamic" clothes on the court. Instead of being projected as a role model for girls in the sub-continent, people chose to stir up unnecessary controversy when, at a press conference, she inadvertently put up her feet on a table which had the national flag.
A different person may have fought back and silenced her critics with her performance, but the Glamour Girl didn't. Five years after she hit the limelight, her second serve remains as weak as ever. On a good day, she is still one of the best players around, but there is no consistency in her performance. All these years later, she is still a mine of talent, but perhaps it is now too late to extract the gold.
She is now making headlines of a different kind. She's getting married to the equally controversial Pakistani cricketer, Shoaib Malik, and speculation is rift about whether she will continue to play after marriage, and if so, for which country. There are also the people who question if she is marrying for love, or into a betting syndicate. And I am not even getting into the soap-operaish saga of the alleged previous marriage of Shoaib's - the truth of which may never be known.
To me, those conversations are purely academic- all that matters is that she is unlikely to ever become the player she could have been. She's gone on record saying that the only thing she is currently bothered about is whether her hair looks good on her wedding day or not. She seems to have completely forgotten about the hard court season that is currently going on, and the amount of tennis she is missing.
And while I wish the couple well, I can't help wondering. Had Sania Mirza not been as attractive and glamourous as she is, would she have achieved her full potential as a tennis player?