TR: Songs of the Sania: Struggling Mirza tries to become an impact player
THE TR NEWSLETTER: Wednesday, August 2, No. 190
Songs of the Sania
Struggling Mirza tries to become an impact player
By Matthew Cronin, TennisReporters. net
FROM THE ACURA CLASSIC IN SAN DIEGO – Sania Mirza hasn't had a great year by anyone's estimation. Ranked No. 44, she's only reached one quarterfinal this year, in Cincinnati.
In fact, she's only won two consecutive singles matches on three occasions this year, but one of those times was Wednesday in San Diego, when she upset 15th seed Katarina Srebotnik 6-3, 7-6(4) and pranced into the third round.
Now she'll get a shot at Elena Dementieva again, who took her down 7-6, 7-5 at Wimbledon and beat her in another contest early in the year.
Dementieva is one of the game's must dogged defenders and Sania is obsessed with offense. Mirza would love to get a win because if she did, it would show that there is hope that she can possibly finish the year in the Top 30.
The hundred or so scribes in India who follow her every step will have something positive to write about, rather than wringing their hands in despair.
Mirza is only 19, but it's high time she started winning close matches. She's lost seven three-setters this year and if she can't find a way to impose herself early and often - which she has a hard time doing with her mediocre serve - she'll need to find ways to battle past her foes in grueling contests.
"I can't play at 100 percent every day," she told TennisReporters. net. "It's about finding ways to win. I might be playing the crappiest match of my life but I can still win it if I play the important points right."
Sania has not shown a capability of doing that week after week, but she's ambitious, and that counts for something on the cat-eat-cat Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.
"I am improving and am playing the best tennis I ever have. I've had some bad matches, but I've felt good. Maybe I'm unlucky that I've lost a few three-setters 6-4 or 7-5 in the third and there not a lot of you can do there. That's couple of points here or there."
Too true, but the high-level players win those couple points. They think their ways to wins; they find the inside of the lines at key points. Much of high-level tennis is having faith in your shots during the big moment and knowing which shots to play. Mirza goes for it, but doesn't always take into account the individual situation or whom she is playing.
"It’s everything,' she said. "It's experience; it's a lot of pressure and expectations and it takes time to get used to. I knew it was just a matter of time before I would get better. If you can work those 6-4 in the third losses into 6-3 in the third for yourself, then it's better."
Mirza is much better hard-court player than she is on clay or grass, which is why you can't cast her aside during the US Open Series due to her less than mediocre year in singles: 11-15.
She isn't the most composed player on court that you'll ever see, but she has made a very intelligent decision to play consistent doubles and that's really aiding her game.
She's won one doubles title this year (with her WTA mentor, Liesel Huber) and reached three other finals. She's learning how to volley and trust her instincts at net. Given that she's not one of the tour's faster players, she needs to shorten points.
"It's really helped my volley a lot," she said. "It adds a lot more tennis, but it's good to have the matches."
Mirza is really grinding this summer. She began the North American hard-court swing and at Cincinnati and will play every week through the US Open.
"I love it, as long as my body holds up," she said. "It does get to you sometimes, but this is my profession and I love getting up, practicing, going to the gym. There are some days when I slack and you want to unwind, but it's still fresh."
As a striking a figure as Mirza is, in San Diego she does not have crowds following her down the streets like the do at home in India. It's easier for her to ply her trade.
"I don't get up every morning and read my name that says what I was wearing and what I was doing," she said. "When I'm in Asia and India, it's much more. Now I've learned to live it. It's not that big a deal anymore."
Being the most popular women's athlete in the Muslim world, Mirza has to pay close attention to her role in society. She's watchful of her own growth process. She does pay attention to her surrounding and while she's a little stubborn, tries to keep an open mind.
"You learn until you die," she said. "You are never too old to learn. "When I stop playing. I'll learn what I missed all these years while playing."
Last year was Mirza's breakout year, when there were some who expected her to be able to successfully launch big strikes against Maria Sharapova at the US Open. But the Russian had few problems with India's finest, completely hitting her off the court.
Sania is more seasoned in 2006, but she knows that she has to show that she can be more than just a perfect foil for the elite girls. But she refuses to say that she should be able to play at a Top-10 level yet.
"I never feel like the sky is coming down if I lose," she said. “I have enough other people doing that. That's the secret why I go for big shots when I'm set point down. Sometimes I make them, some times I don't. I play risky tennis because I feel like I need to hit a big shot. Everyone can hit winners if you give them and easy ball."
Mirza has tremendous forehand, a pretty consistent backhand and a very ambitious return. But what's been lacking is her ability to properly construct points. The two best players this year - Amelie Mauresmo, and Justine Henin Hardenne – know how to compose a concert with seven different instruments chiming in unison. Sania is not there yet.
Should she learn to conduct her own orchestra, she'll have a shot at the Top 10, because she does have a terrific feel for the ball and has a unique sense of self-worth. If she doesn't, she could remain outside of the Top 30.
That would be too bad because in the personality department amongst the teens, she's Top-3 material.
"I've been working on point construction, but my game is not to defend, construct the point and wait for the other person too make the mistake. It's offense."
© TennisReporters. net 2006
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