The Uberoi: All in the family
BY MICHELLE KAUFMAN
Neha Uberoi can identify with the main character in Bend It Like Beckham, a young Indian woman who wants to play professional soccer. But unlike the movie character, whose parents initially object to her dream, Uberoi's parents -- Madhu and Muhesh -- are instrumental to her tennis success and a big reason she won the junior Luxilon Cup on Friday, defeating No. 1 seed Nicole Vaidisova 6-2, 6-4.
The victory was particularly gratifying because Vaidisova beat Uberoi in the Orange Bowl final three months ago on the same Crandon Park grounds.
Uberoi, an 18-year-old Boca Raton resident, is one of five tennis-playing sisters. The eldest sister, Diya, played at Vassar College and is now an attorney. Her 20-year-old sister, Shikha, is on the pro circuit. And her 10-year-old twin sisters, Nikita and Nimita, are launching their junior careers. Neha and Shikha each played a year at Princeton University (Neha was admitted at age 16) and are officially on leave to test the pro waters.
''We are the definition of a tennis family,'' said father Muhesh Uberoi, an engineer who sold his software company to focus on his daughters' tennis aspirations. He moved with his eldest daughters from New Jersey to Saddlebrook (near Tampa) in 1995, and the entire family moved to Boca in 1998. Four of the girls are training with coach Rick Massi in Pompano Beach.
''Rick has really helped me in the past three months, working on my footwork, my serve and backhand, and I could really tell the difference in this tournament,'' Uberoi said. ``I was determined to do well here and got lucky that I got to have a rematch with the same girl. This win will definitely boost my confidence.''
Neha's ranking has soared from the 700s to the mid-300s, and her goal is to be the first woman of Indian descent to make a splash on the WTA tour. Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi are stars on the men's tour, and Uberoi said she would like to ``open the door for other Indian girls and let them see sports is an option.''
But I, being poor, have only my dreams
I have spread my dreams under your feet
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams