Sania Mirza, A Hyderabadi girl Teen tennis sensation Sania Mirza fancied her chances against top American Serena Williams whom she runs into in the third round of the Australian Open Grand Slam on Friday.
“Well, she won in 48 minutes today and gave away three games… I won in 50 minutes and also gave away three games. So who knows,” Sania said after recording a historic win to become only the first Indian woman to reach the third round of a Grand Slam.
The 18-year-old Hyderabadi walloped 84th ranked Petra Mandula of Hungary 6-2 6-1 in 50 minutes in the second round. The best ever performance by an Indian woman hitherto had been the second round appearance of Nirupama Sanjeev at the same Grand Slam in 1998.
Sania, ranked 166, said the clash with world number seven Serena was “the biggest match of her life” and that if she enjoyed herself on the court she would learn a few things along the way.
“It is the biggest match of my life and I think it is hard to plan too much for it. I am just going to go out there, enjoy playing on a show court,” she said in an interview.
“I feel in matches like this, what is most important is that you focus on yourself, put in 200 per cent and play the match of your life,” Sania said. But the 18-year-old Mirza, who got a wild card entry into the Australian Open in Melbourne, lost to Williams 1-6,4-6 in the third round. Williams took just 56 minutes to defeat Mirza and sail into the fourth round.
Playing the biggest match of her life, Mirza made little impact on Williams in the early stages of the game.
But the teenager showed more confidence in the second set and engaged the seventh-seeded Williams in some well contested rallies.
Mirza, a junior Wimbledon doubles title winner, became the first Indian woman to reach the third round of a grand slam tennis event when she beat Hungarian Petra Mandula on Wednesday.
“I’m really excited. I was confident but I didn’t think it was going to be that easy,” Mirza said after her second round win.
“My aim was to win a round here. When I did that I was so relieved, there was no pressure.”
Tennis is not a particularly popular sport in India, but a number of Indians watched the live telecast of the match between Mirza and Williams.
:: PROFILE ::
Birth Date: 15 Nov 1986
Birth Place: Mumbai, India
Residence: Hydrabad, India
Plays: Right Handed (Double Handed Backhand)
Favourite Surface: Hard
Coach: Cak Bhupathi
Age Began Tennis: 6
Personal Interests: Swimming, Music
Ambition: To be in the Top 20 of the World.
Favourite player: Steffi Graf.
Sponsored by: G.V.K. Group of Industries, Adidas and Head.
Represented India at the 2002 Junior Fed Cup.
:: Rankings (ITF) ::(up to 2007)
Current Singles Ranking: 32
Highest Singles Ranking: 10 (21 Apr 2003)
Current Doubles Ranking: 2
Highest Doubles Ranking: 1 (06 Oct 2003)
Year End Rankings
Singles: 2002 – 31, 2001 – 29, 2000 – 131, 1999 – 453=
Doubles: 2002 – 21, 2001 – 47, 2000 – 233, 1999 – 590=
:: Highest Ranking ::
2003 # 1 ITF G18 Dbles
2003 # 10 ITF G18 Sgles
2004 # 20 ITF G18
2003 # 1 IND Sgles
2003 # 1 IND Dbles
2002 # 27 ITF Sgles
2002 # 20 ITF Dbles
2002 # 1 IND Sgles
2002 # 1 IND Dbles
2001 # 27 ITF Sgles
2001 # 49 ITF Dbles
2000 # 745 ETA Sgles
:: Tournament History ::
Aug 2003 G18 Dbles Finalist (with Anna Tchakvetadze RUS), Canadian Open, Repentigny, CAN, ITF G1
Jun 2003 G18 Dbles Champion (with Alisa Kleybanova RUS), Wimbledon, London, GBR, ITF GA
Jun 2003 G18 Dbles Quarterfinalist (with Sanaa Bhambri IND), Gerry Weber Open, Halle, GER, ITF G4
Jun 2003 G18 Dbles Winner (with Sanaa Bhambri IND), 11th Frankfurt Int’l, GER, ITF G1
Jun 2003 G18 Dbles Semifinalist (with Sanaa Bhambri IND), French Open, Roland Garros, FRA, ITF GA
May 2003 G18 Dbles Quarterfinalist (with Beier Ko CAN), 39th Astrid Bowl, BEL, ITF G1
Apr 2003 G18 Dbles Winner (with Sanaa Bhambri IND), Shuzo Challenge Japan Open, Nagoya, JPN, ITF G1
Apr 2003 G18 Sgles Quarterfinalist, Shuzo Challenge Japan Open, Nagoya, JPN, ITF G1
Apr 2003 G18 Sgles Winner, 14th Mitsubishi Lancer, Manila, PHI, ITF G1
Apr 2003 G18 Dbles Semifinalist (with Yung-Jan Chan TPE), 14th Mitsubishi Lancer, Manila, PHI, ITF G1
Dec 2002 Singles Winner & Doubles Finalist (with Isha Lakhani IND), Asian Closed Junior Tennis Championships, ITF GB2
Sep 2002 16U Team India (with Ankita Bhambri & Kartiki Bhat), Junior Fed Cup
Sep 2002 Doubles Qtrfinalist (with Isha Lakhani IND) US Open, USA, ITF Grade A
Aug 2002 Singles Winner & Doubles Winner (with Tarryn Terblanche RSA), South/Central Africa Circuit, Botswana, ITF G3
Jul 2002 Doubles Finalist, Smash Tennis EGY, ITG G3
Jul 2002 Singles Winner & Doubles Winner (with Isha Lakhani IND), Pretoria University, ITF G2
Jul 2002 Doubles Winner (with Isha Lakhani IND), PIC Pretoria, ITF G2
May 2002 Doubles Qtrfinalist (with Micaela Moran ARG), Villach Cup Austria, ITF G2
Apr 2002 Doubles Finalist (with Lara Giltinana AUS) & Singles Qtrfinalist, Chinese Taipei Jo Jo Int’l, ITF G3
Apr 2002 Singles Qtrfinalist, Mitsubishi Lancer, PHI, ITF G2
Jan 2002 Doubles Winner (with Linda Smolenakova SVK) & Singles Qtrfinalist, Victorian Champs., AUS, ITF G2
Dec 2001 Doubles Semifinalist (with Sanaa Bhambri IND), Asian Closed, ITF G B2
Oct 2001 Singles & Doubles Finalist, Hong Kong Open, ITF G2
Oct 2001 Doubles Qtrfinalist (with Hanna Nooni SWE) & Singles rd of 16, Osaka Mayor’s Cup, Japan, ITF Grade A
Aug 2001 Singles & Doubles Semifinalist (with Sasha Abraham IND) KawZulu Natal, ITF G1
Aug 2001 Doubles Qtrfinalist (with Sasha Abraham IND), Dolphen Coast, ITF G2
Jul 2001 Doubles Winner (with Wana Mrazovic YUG) & Singles Finalist, Smash Tennis Int’l G4
Jul 2001 Singles & Doubles Winner (with Sasha Abraham IND), Movenpick Int’l G3
Apr 2001 Singles Semifinalist, Mitsubishi Lancer Int’l G2
Mar 2001 Singles Qtrfinalist, Mali Milk Cup, 21st Thailand Open G2
Mar 2001 Singles Qtrfinalist, Malaysian Int’l G3
Feb 2001 Singles Winner & Doubles Qtrfinalist (with Sasha Abraham IND), Bangladesh Int’l G3
Feb 2001 Singles & Doubles Semifinalist (with Maya Rosa INA), Rajshahi Int’l G4
Feb 2001 Singles Winner & Doubles Finalist (with May Rosa INA), India ITF Junior Circuit III – Calcutta G4
Jan 2001 Singles & Doubles Winner (with Sasha Abraham IND), Indian ITF Junior 11 – Chandigarh G4
Jan 2001 Doubles Winner (with Sasha Abraham IND) & Singles Qtrfinalist, Indian ITF Junior I – New Delhi G4
Nov 2000 Doubles Semifinalist (with Leila Cehajic CAN), T-Bar Int’l, ITF G5
Nov 2000 Doubles Semifinalist (with Sasha Abraham IND) & Singles Qtrfinalist, Malaysia Int’l 2 G4
Oct 2000 Singles & Doubles Winner (with Zahra Omer Khan PAK), Pakistan Int’l Junior Championships G5
Sep 2000 Singles Winner & Doubles Semifinalist (with Reddhina Parekh IND), Indian ITF – Mumbai G4
Sep 2000 Singles & Doubles Semifinalist (with Priyanka Parekh IND), Indian ITF Junior -Chennai G5
Aug 2000 Singles Semifinalist, Int’l Youth Tennis G4
Feb 2000 Doubles Qtrfinalist (with Anete Rozkalne LAT), Bangladesh Int’l , ITF G3
Jan 2000 Singles Qtrfinalist, Indian ITF I – New Delhi G4
Jan 2000 Singles Finalist & Doubles Qtrfinalist (with Nichala Reddy Boda IND), Int’l, Sri Lanka G4
Nov 1999 Singles Qtrfinalist, India ITF Junior Circuit III Grade 5
Nov 1999 Doubles Winner (with Nida Waseem PAK) & Singles Finalist, Pakistan Int’l G5
Sania Mirza is cool. She was cool when she paired with Leander Paes in the mixed doubles category at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, South Korea. She was cool when she visited the troubled state of Pakistan when she was barely 14, to play her first ITF juniors’ tourney in Islamabad, and then again as part of an Indian contingent for an under-14 ITF juniors event when the Indian Airlines plane was hijacked in Kandahar in 1999.Sania MirzaAnd now she is cool, sitting on the side lawns of the Sports Authority of the Andhra Pradesh tennis courts, talking about being paired with one of women’s tennis ambassadors, Frenchwoman Mary Pierce, in the doubles category at the US $140,000 WTA Indian Open in Hyderabad.As we talk about her maiden tourney in our neighbouring country, she says, “I have been thrice to Pakistan and every time the visit has been pleasant. But when the plane hijack happened we had to finish our games in two days and rush; it was scary during that time.”Dressed in off-the-court tennis gear after a morning training session, Mirza is busy getting up-to-date with her co-players, discussing opponents, strategies, and at the same time surprised at Isha Lakhani getting an upper hand over her opponent in her first round qualifier.”Oh, she is winning,” says Mirza, obviously delighted that her colleague is playing well.Indeed, Mirza has always delivered that air of confidence without caring too much about the hype”I have been lucky to have played with the likes of Leander — and now with Mary Pierce. I hope to learn a few things from her [Pierce] as I did from Leander.”As tennis fans across the globe are overawed by the amazing talent of Paes, so is the country’s top woman player.”He is so fast on the court and so encouraging. And the best part is in spite of such a wide chasm between our achievements he makes you feel at his level.”
Mirza believes the mixed doubles bronze at the Asian Games is the most important medal of her career thus far.
As her eyes move from court to court, scanning the matches of various qualifiers, our talk drifts to the WTA event in her own city, Hyderabad. Is it the most important event of her career?
“Well, I have played the Grand Slams… yes, but definitely this is my first instance of rubbing shoulders with the seniors… and that with some of the best in the game.”
Mirza has not played active tennis since she won the National Games gold medal in December. She was at her peak then despite a minor ligament stress in her left knee.
“I played the best tennis during the National Games, especially from the quarter-finals onwards,” she says.
Her 6-0, 6-0 brutal assassination of not-so-well Manisha Malhotra must have been one of the best victories.
“I really played well, but she was having fever,” points out Mirza, hastening to add she too was tired and looking for a much-needed break after playing non-stop tennis for some eight months.
“I was very tired and needed a long break to re-coup.”
Apart from a week’s stint at the CGK Bhupathi Academy in Bangalore, Mirza has been cooling her heels at home.
One of the major events she skipped to relieve her work-stress was the Australian Open juniors.Sania Mirza
“I will also not play at the French Open as clay is not my favourite surface. So I wouldn’t like to compete there,” she informs.
Sounds a nice strategy as it is better to concentrate on the strong points rather than struggle, dealing with the weaker ones. After Hyderbad, the Mirza caravan [she travels with her mother] moves to Doha. Then she plans to participate in a few ITF tournaments.
“I have planned nothing long-term and after Doha I would play a few ITF grade one tourneys where I can encounter the much-needed higher level of competition.”
Indian women have always performed well on the ITF junior circuit but when it comes to the big league they are not up to the mark. Mirza, too, has not encountered the top players in the juniors and that remains a major predicament. But she doesn’t seem bothered.
“I don’t think I need to beat the top-25 to prove a point. I am playing at the top of my form. I just want to concentrate now on good events in the near future.”
The burning desire in Mirza is certainly hot at the moment. In fact, she had made it clear in her last interview with rediff.com that her priority is getting into the professional circuit. The wild card she’s received at the WTA Indian Open is just a mark of respect to her increasing potential. She feels staying for another year on the junior circuit may alter all her plans and, hence, is pulling all stops to march ahead.
Isin’t it true that who dares, wins?