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The Tennis Week Interview: Sania Mirza

The Tennis Week Interview: Sania Mirza

Photo By Art Seitz By Richard Pagliaro

The distinguished class of U.S. champions command your attention as they crowd the hallway shoulder-to-shoulder and the search for elbow room seldom seems so elegant. Maureen Connolly rips a forehand, Margaret Court launches into a serve, Althea Gibson stares intently at the ball as if attempting to hypnotize it and Maria Bueno looks so graceful her perspiration seems to pirouette from her skin as she glides toward a backhand overhead.

A few hundred yards away from these Hall of Famers, the woman who made history at the 2005 U.S. Open is back bouncing inside the blue U.S. Open Series court at the West Side Tennis Club patiently putting together the pieces of her game and her future on the practice court.

A year ago, Sania Mirza burst onto the WTA Tour in a flurry of firsts. Mirza became the first Indian woman to win a WTA Tour singles title, the first to crack the top 100 and the first to reach the fourth round of a major as she fought off Mashona Washington, 7-6(6), 6-7(6), 6-4, in a dramatic duel staged before a packed crowd on the Grandstand court en route to the U.S. Open round of 16 where she was emphatically dismissed by 2004 Wimbledon winner Maria Sharapova, 6-2, 6-1, in her first match on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Mirza, whose season was short-circuited, concluded the year with a 33-20 record and a year-end rank of No. 31.

This week she returns to the historic grounds of the West Side Tennis Club for the Forest Hills Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Classic. While photos of the legendary past U.S. National champions including Connolly, Gibson, Court and Bueno greet visitors walking through the entrance of the former home to the U.S. Open tennis today is very much alive at Westside, which features grass, clay and hard courts. The Forest Hills Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Classic, along with the U.S. Open qualifiers staged this week on the grounds of the nearby National Tennis Center, is arguably the best sports value in New York City (of course the sight of watching Mets shortstop Jose Reyes burst out of the box to begin the race from home to third on a triple is priceless). Admission to the tournament is free through the semifinals (there is a $10 admission to Saturday's 2 p.m. final, which is preceded by an 11 a.m. jazz concert a wine and champagne-tasting festival from noon to 2 p.m. and a wheelchair tennis exhibition) and the tournament features several top 100 players including defending champion Lucie Safarova, Meghann Shaughnessy, Anna Smashnova and Martina Sucha.

The 19-year-old Mirza, who meets American wild card Alexa Glatch in her opening match at 4:30 p.m. today (Wednesday), is currently ranked No. 44 in singles and trying to find her footing on the hard courts that felt like her comfort zone last year.

In February of 2005, Mirza's historic title triumph transformed the streets of her hometown of Hyderabad into a paved dance floor as joyous fans danced in spontaneous celebration after Mirza defeated ninth-seeded Alyona Bondarenko 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 in the Hyderabad Open final to become the first Indian woman to win a WTA Tour singles title. People ranging from pedestrians to India's Congressional President, Sonia Gandhi, issued their congratulations to the teenager who single handedly put Indian women's tennis on the map. A year that began with Mirza-mania also included episodes of madness as religious extremists denounced her on-court attire prompting Indian Muslim leaders in Bengal to come out in support of Mirza.

The teenager who could be so bold playing atop the baseline on the court was forced to find balance treading the cultural tight rope off court in responding to the constant questions about her attire, her religion (Mirza is a devout Muslim who tries to pray four or five times a day) and even her views on pre-marital sex. While she spent some time end of the 2005 season responding to controversy over her clothes off court, Mirza must now answer opponents on court to quell the whispers that she's been exposed as a hard-hitter with a mammoth forehand (struck so hard at times you'd almost want to wear a chest protector while playing at net against her in practice sessions) whose plan A is to hit hard and plan B is to hit harder.

Wisely seeking to add subtlety to her game while widening her vocabulary of shot, Mirza spent time in the off season working with Tony Roche, coach of World No. 1 Roger Federer and former coach of Ivan Lendl, to streamline her service motion and improve her volley. In an effort to improve her transition game, Mirza has used her backhand slice more frequently and has been a diligent doubles player, winning the Tier III Ban galore title with South Africa's Liezel Huber and reaching doubles finals at Amelia Island, Istanbul and Cincinnati. She will play doubles at the U.S. Open with Huber and mixed doubles with Pavel Vainer.

Watching her Monday afternoon practice at West Side, Mirza spent the final 15 minutes repeatedly hitting sharp, short-angle returns — another sign she is practicing placement to complement the prodigious power over her ground strokes.

"There's no doubt that my forehand and backhand can match anyone, it's about the place that they're put in," Mirza said. "I can hit the ball as hard as anyone can, but I think it's more about where I'm hitting the ball. Instead of 90 mph it can just be a 50 mph forehand, but the placement is more important. So I've been working on that a lot more. When you're working on things, maybe your performance drops a little bit or you're trying new things in every tournament you're going in so that's just a process of being an athlete because you're learning, you're adding new things to your game. When I sit with my notes, for instance, instead of hitting a hard forehand return, I would like to hit an angled forehand return instead."

Tennis is all about adjustments and just as opponents have adjusted to Mirza's power-based baseline game, it's now up to her to expand her game by exploring other areas of the court. The girl who grew up in a town with only two tennis courts in a country that had never produced a single female top 100 player has grown into a world-class player has a clear vision of where she plans to take her game.

"I'm trying to come a lot more to the net and trying to be more offensive — not in terms of hitting the ball harder, which I think is quite hard for me to hit it any harder than I do — but in terms of building the point and coming to the net and being offensive at the net," Mirza said. "A lot of the top girls barely do (come to net) except like Mauresmo or Henin does it a little bit, but a lot of girls don't do it."

That transition is taking time. Mirza has produced an 11-18 record this year, has only one win over a top-20 player and has registered back-to-back wins just three times. But sitting on the deck of the West Side Tennis Club, which is borders a street named Tennis Lane, on a sunny Monday afternoon, Mirza believes she is making strides down her chosen path and headed in the right direction.

"Honestly, it may sound funny, but I think I am hitting the ball much better than I was last year," Mirza said. "And I feel like I'm more a complete player this year than I was last year. It's just a matter of putting everything together."

Clad in blue sweat paints and a white t-shirt with her black hair pulled back, a relaxed Mirza addressed the present state of her game and her plans for the future in this interview.

Tennis Week: You had good results in New York last year, reaching the final of Forest Hills and the fourth round of the U.S. Open. How does it feel to be back?

Sania Mirza: I have some good memories of this place. Yesterday, I went to the U.S. Open and I told my dad "I've got some great memories from this place after playing on center court last year." I was telling him the person sitting on top seemed so small looking up from the court. I have some good memories playing here (Forest Hills) reaching the final last year. Unfortunately, I lost, but I played some great tennis.

Tennis Week: Why did you choose to play Forest Hills instead of New Haven?

Sania Mirza: I would be playing the qualies at New Haven, for one. It's very tight. The top seed in the qualies this year is 27 so I was six out of the main draw. I think this is a great tournament to play and just before the Open it's nice and relaxed and there are only 16 girls and it's almost like you come and practice and you don't need to wait in line for the physio. It's just very relaxed to be playing here the week before the Open, especially when you go to a Slam it's so crazy; there are like thousands of people outside. So it's really nice to be here.

Tennis Week: You worked with Federer's coach, Tony Roche, in the offseason. How did that go and will you be working with Tony again?

Sania Mirza: I went to him in December last year and I was there for about a month. I don't know if you noticed, but I changed my serve and I did that with him. Obviously, I've had some great results and the percentage on my first serve is averaging 60 to 65 percent per match on a good day and on a bad day it's averaging about 50 percent whereas on a good day before it used to be like 40 percent so I think that's a real big plus to my game right now. As to when I'm going to go back to him, it's a difficult question because he's traveling with Roger. I might go back again in the offseason after I travel to Asia and play a few tournaments, I might go back to him.

Tennis Week: How is your arm?

Sania Mirza: It's actually, touch wood, doing OK. I think this is the first time when I'm in a tournament where I have no major injuries in a really long time since last year. Even when I played here last year I had a torn abdominal muscle and that was very awful because I had to skip Toronto the week before and I came here the week before and I had internal bleeding in the muscle. This whole year my elbow has been troubling me and my wrist, I was out for a month again because of my wrist. I've done a lot of rehab and been strengthening it quite a lot. The last couple of months, I think it's been mental, that I had the tape or the brace on my arm. It's hard when you've been playing with it for four months to just take it off because you're scared and you don't want to do the same thing over again. But I'm confident that I've strengthened it enough that hopefully it shouldn't be a problem. You know, freak accidents can happen.

Tennis Week: As you look ahead in your game and career what would you like to add and refine in your game?

Sania Mirza: My serve used to be a weakness and I don't think it's a weakness anymore. I'm trying to come a lot more to the net and trying to be more offensive — not in terms of hitting the ball harder, which I think is quite hard for me to hit it any harder than I do — but in terms of building the point and coming to the net and being offensive at the net. A lot of the top girls barely do (come to net) except like Mauresmo or Henin does it a little bit, but a lot of girls don't do it.

Tennis Week: When you review your notes during a match what are the things you're reviewing? What are the keys to building a point?

Sania Mirza: There's no doubt that my forehand and backhand can match anyone, it's about the place that they're put in. I can hit the ball as hard as anyone can, but I think it's more about where I'm hitting the ball. Instead of 90 mph it can just be a 50 mph forehand, but the placement is more important. So I've been working on that a lot more. When you're working on things, maybe your performance drops a little bit or you're trying new things in every tournament you're going in so that's just a process of being an athlete because you're learning, you're adding new things to your game. When I sit with my notes, for instance, instead of hitting a hard forehand return, I would like to hit an angled forehand return instead. So I always tell my coach "You're not getting to that shot, but a lot of girls are getting it." But at least I am setting up the point and the whole court is open even if they get to that ball.

Tennis Week: For this tournament, what are the things you're working on in preparation for the U.S. Open?

Sania Mirza: I would have liked to get a lot more matches this year, but I really haven't gotten as many as I wanted. Right now, I'm feeling good with the ball. Honestly, it may sound funny, but I think I am hitting the ball much better than I was last year. And I feel like I'm more a complete player this year than I was last year. It's just a matter of putting everything together. Sometimes, you just feel you get to four-all, 30-all and you feel like you can win the match, but for some reason you're not winning it maybe because maybe you're trying something you've been working on the last few months. So in this tournament I want to try to get in as many matches as I can. To start with, I want to play a good match in the first round. The conditions here are a lot different than they were in Montreal or L.A. because it's a lot windier here and it's a lot more humid here.

Tennis Week: What's your take on the WTA's experimenting with on-court coaching and with the use of replay during the U.S. Open Series and at the Open?

Sania Mirza: I love the replay rule. Especially for a player like me where I go for a lot of winners and I hit a lot of lines a lot of the times. Sometimes, I've gotten calls against me in tiebreakers and now I feel like I can challenge that call. I mean, I might be wrong, but it's like giving myself a second chance when I really am sure that I hit the ball on the line. I think it's great and that so many players are using it and liking the rule. I was listening to Hingis saying she likes the rule, and the other day Andy Roddick was saying he liked it. I saw Andy Murray get some calls that he challenged and it helped him. It's great that they are using it — I don't know if it's great for the linesmen (laughs).

Tennis Week: I remember watching you play Mashona Washington on the Grandstand at the Open last year and it was quite an electric crowd. You're a player who generally gets pretty good crowd support, can you feed of a crowd energy and can that help you?

Sania Mirza: They definitely help you. I always say you'd rather have them for you than against you. Fortunately, 90 percent of the time they are for me — wherever I play and for whatever reason — there are a lot of Indians wherever I go. You want to stay as focused as you can, but you can't really block them out. They are noisy after all, they are making noise and they are cheering for you. I think sometimes when I was down in that match and so many times they helped me come up. If not for anything else, I wanted to try that one step harder for the crowd, for the thousands of people sitting there watching you play you want to give it all you have.

Tennis Week: Within a 20-mile radius of Forest Hills, there are probably 500,000 Indian people. How is it that you can walk around without getting mobbed and why aren't more people coming out?

Sania Mirza: For starters, there aren't that many people here to be mobbed by (laughs). Maybe they aren't aware of it yet and maybe when the matches start tomorrow (they'll be here). I remember last year at Forest Hills it grew as I was winning match. The first match, there were hardly any people, but the final that I played there were about 1,200 or 1,500 people, which is a lot for a Tier IV event where there are only 16 girls playing. Relatively, me and Safarova were really no names last year.

Tennis Week: Here, but certainly not in India?

Sania Mirza: Well, maybe they're busy and they have to work (laughs). I don't know, I don't agree that they're not interested because yesterday I was walking in Manhattan in the (Times) Square and so many people came up to me because there are so many Indians in Manhattan and they came up to me "Ohy my God, I can't believe you're here!" When they left the house, they probably thought "Let's go take a picture in the Square." And when they came home they had a picture with Sania in the Square, which is weird because in India they would not get that opportunity because in India I would not go to the Square. Hopefully, they will come. And I'm pretty sure there will be a lot at the Open. Last year, when I played Sharapova (at the Open), that is a big stadium and it was packed with Indians. Let's hope they do come.

Tennis Week: Hingis told us a few weeks back "it's always easier to be the hunter than the hunted." In other words, the climb up the rankings can often be easier than protecting your position once you've actually made it and playing the hunter can be easier than being the hunted. For you, after your breakthrough year last year now you're playing under the pressure of having to defend points and results. Do you agree with Hingis on that view?

Sania Mirza: No doubt. I can't agree with her more. Last year, I was a rookie on the Tour and every match I won, it was a surprise when I won. And this year, every time I lose it's a surprise. Of course it gets to you and of course it is pressure. Like you said, it is a lot easier to be playing the hunter than being the hunted because everyone is expecting you to win and even if you do win and you win in three sets they want you to win 2 and 2 and if you don't win 2 and 2 then that means (to them) you haven't played well and everyone's got their comments on your serve and your volley and your fitness and how you should train to improve. I mean, every athlete has to go through it. I mean, Martina Hingis does and I do too. Andy Roddick, this year, has had so much scrutiny on him. He came out in the U.S. Open Series where he needed to win and he won the tournament in Cincinnati yesterday. I really respect people like that: who against all the odds when everyone is saying "He's done. He's done", but he goes out and wins the tournament. I think when I watched him play the last couple of matches, those are some of the best matches I've ever seen him play. I mean, he might have played even better winning the U.S. Open in 2003, but these last few matches are the best I've ever seen him play. So it's just a matter of putting a few things together. I think it's the same story with me. Right now, everyone is saying: "Sania is not winning. She's not winning enough." But come to think of it, my performance in the whole U.S. trip is exactly the same as it was last year: I lost first round in L.A., I did not play Toronto last year, but I've reached third round of San Diego so did I last year, I reached quarters of Cincinnati, so did I last year. Everything is exactly the same on this trip. And my doubles, I am now 29 in the world and last year I was 180 or whatever...

Tennis Week: But the expectations have changed...

Sania Mirza: Yeah, that's my point: the expectations have changed. And that's why people look at it different and now that I lose third round people are like "How did she lose this match?" And even though I was playing Patty Schnyder in the quarters and I had some set points, no one saw I had set points and I hit the net cord and it came back, it was like "Oh my God, she lost!"

Tennis Week: But it can't just be the fans' expectations and media expectations, your own expectations must have changed as well?

Sania Mirza: I think I try to not think about that as much. Because I think I have a lot of people probably already expecting more than I can ever do, so it's better for me — even now when I got out in a Grand Slam I can't think "I have to make the fourth round (at the Open) again because I made the fourth round last year..." I got out and I think I have to win the first match. My goal for every tournament is to win the first match because I truly believe the first match is one of the hardest matches because it's new: new climate, new atmosphere, new player, new balls. Everything is new. So for me, tomorrow when I step on court, I'm not going to think: "I made finals last year, I have to make finals this year. I have to win the tournament." No, I just want to play the first round and win it.

Tennis Week: At the same time you're not ruling out winning tournaments or Grand Slams?

Sania Mirza: No. But I don't look at who I am playing in the second round; my dad might do it and my team might do it, but I don't do it until I get to the second round. It's just mental, I think, I need to ease off the pressure and this is my way of doing it.

Tennis Week: As the first Indian woman to make an impact on professional tennis, you're often described as an inspiration to athletes and women in India. Who or what is your inspiration?

Sania Mirza: My parents have been a great inspiration to me. I came in the picture later because they went against the odds and said we're going to make our daughter play tennis. Everyone laughed at them at the time and some said "That's stupid" and now those same people come back today and say "We're sorry we said that" (laughs). The fact that there were two tennis courts in the whole city, didn't help. When I was six and a half my mom went to the local coach and said "We think she's ready to play." And he refused, the first time, he said "No, she's too small." In India, they didn't believe then that a girl who was six and a half could pick up a tennis racquet and play whereas they didn't know in Russia girls were picking up racquets and playing at the age of three or two. If I didn't start until I was eight or 10, I probably wouldn't even be here. My parents fought that and said "No, we want her to play." My mom forced that guy to take me and I did go there and I ended up playing with him for about a year or a year and a half and two months after I started there, he called my dad and he said "I really think you need to come and watch her play. I've never seen a six-year-old hit a ball like that." But I mean, he had never seen a six-year-old hit a ball (at all) because that's not how it worked at that point. Six-year-old girls in a place like Hyderabad did not play; tennis was a recreation like badminton or gardening. So I draw inspiration from my parents. Steffi Graf has always been my tennis idol; always Steffi Graf. Just the way she was and the way she carried herself on the court and off the court. She does inspire me today. Everyone asks me "Who is your favorite tennis player?" And I always say "Steffi Graf." I just cannot imagine anyone being better than her, you know? I think a lot of people love Steffi Graf for the way she was on and off the court.

Tennis Week: Who comprises your traveling team now?

Sania Mirza: My dad is a constant. He's kind of the super coach. He's been there always. He's watched me play on courts with holes and he's watched me play on center court at the U.S. Open (laughs). He's been there for the last 13 years. I have a coach who I practice with when I go back home. I was traveling with John Farrington last year and we stopped in about February after I won the doubles title in Bangalore. I had an Indian coach, Asifismail, who had been helping me a lot and he's a serve-and-volleyer so he was very helpful in terms of my volley. He has a job in Hong Kong and on the circuit it's a tough life to be away from your family and friends so that didn't work out, but I would love to him him again. Now, Narendernath is traveling with me. When I was growing up, he played with me, he knows my game and we get along so he is here with me right now. I have a trainer, an Australian girl, Jade Hoddies, who used to train me, but she had to go home so I am kind of looking for a trainer right now.

Tennis Week: You look like you lost weight since we last saw you?

Sania Mirza: A lot of people have told me that (laughs).

Tennis Week: You look fitter than last year is a nicer way of putting it.

Sania Mirza: Yes. My weight is exactly the same as last year, but I've lost a lot of fat and converted it to muscle. Honestly, it's not been intentional. I thought, my weight is this and I looked at the (weight) chart and saw I'm supposed to be here and if I go any less than that I can't hit the ball as hard. I have been doing more physical training and I've been trying to get faster and I was trying to build muscle in my leg and trying to get stronger and I think it's automatically happened, which is good because I didn't have to go on a strict diet. I was still eating normal and eating healthy.

Tennis Week: So going three hard sets is not a problem?

Sania Mirza: No, I think it's not about physical anymore it's about trying to get my game all together. There have been bits and pieces everywhere. I know I have every shot: I have the slice, I have the volley, I have the approach, I have the angles, I have the serve. It's just about putting everything together and doing it in the match.

Tennis Week: Have you been doing anything in terms of mental training?

Sania Mirza: Well, I'm not a yoga person. I've been told to try yoga. I just can't get myself to do yoga. I pray four or five times a day so it's about 10 minutes of total concentration God during those prayers so I really think that helps me. a lot with my game also because when you're trying to focus only on God, you're trying to get everything else out of your head and just have that single focus. Trust me, it's very hard to do that four or five times a day. I mean, it's hard enough to do it once a day, but four or five times a day to just switch off the world and focus everything on God is difficult to do and I do try to do that four or five times a day. I think that's one of the reasons yoga is not part of my routine and I feel this is better because I am actually being constructive, but in yoga I'm just going blank.

Tennis Week: Who will you play doubles with at the Open and is there anyone you view as sort of your standard partner?

Sania Mirza: No, I don't have a regular partner. I've never had a regular partner in my life and I'm 29 in the world in doubles (laughs). It's very hard when you're young and you're coming up and you reach this stage and as a singles player my priority is obviously singles and you want to play certain tournaments for singles where a doubles player might want you to play other tournaments for doubles so it's hard for me to have a regular partner. A lot of singles players don't want to play doubles every time so that's a problem too. For the Open, I'm playing with Liezel Huber again. We've played a few times, we've won a couple of tournaments and we've played well together. With my groundstrokes, Liezel is a great partner because she's so good and so quick at the net.

Tennis Week: You can set her up from the baseline.

Sania Mirza: Exactly. I hit it so heavy it can set up my partner. A lot of girls don't volley that well. Men's singles and doubles is so different, but women's singles and doubles you can find similarities. Women singles players can be really good doubles players even if they can't volley. We had Paola Suarez and Virginia Ruano Pascual playing from behind the baseline, one behind and one in front, still dominating. I am looking for someone who can serve and who I can set up so she needs to move well at net. I usually do pretty well at mixed doubles because the guy at net is always moving and I hit it pretty heavy so I am trying to set him up. I am playing mixed doubles with Vizner.

Tennis Week: Did you always hit such a heavy, hard forehand? And if so is it because you had timing or where you a naturally strong girl even as a kid?

Sania Mirza: I was never a strong girl. I was naturally very small and petite. When I was younger, I was a tiny girl. They didn't even think I was gonna grow that much. I'm five-foot-seven and a half and they didn't think I would grow that tall. I think it was just timing, especially on my forehand. Interesting, I used to have a really Westernized grip. I mean, my grip now is semi-Western, but before it was like really, really almost (Alberto) Berasategui-like. I learned on clay, but the clay in India is very different. It's brown, orange-brown, but it is very fast, almost like a hard court and it's so much easier to slide on. It's like playing on a hard court, but you can slide on it. Thankfully, before I started the cow dung courts were going out (laughs). So I had this grip, but they wanted me to change it and everyone had their opinion. I got to this point where I am today where it is semi-western and I could not go any further because that is my natural shot. When you're eight you want to try different things to make it as perfect as you can. So I stopped at eight, but even at age nine they used to say I had one of the biggest forehands in the under-16s in the whole of India so today they say I have one of the biggest forehands on the WTA circuit so obviously people could see I had a big forehand even when I was nine. It just comes so natural and it comes so effortless it just seems like I can hit it as hard as I want when I'm relaxed. That's when the problem comes: when I try to hit it so hard that's when I make errors. It's like everything else: when you force it to much, you mess it up. So I have to be as natural as I can on that. I have this photographer in my room of myself hitting a forehand when I was seven. And I have the same photo from the Sharapova match at the U.S. Open last year and the style of my forehand in that photo looks exactly the same as the one I was hitting at age seven.

Tennis Week: You're working with Mahesh Bhupathi for off court endeavors, where are you and he talking about taking your career?

Sania Mirza: He basically manages my whole endorsement deals and the commercial aspect of my career, to be honest. Of course, we have a personal relationship. We're almost like family because I practiced about a year off and on with his father in Bangalore so I've known Mahesh about five or six years now. And when I was growing up he was of course a huge star in India and we looked up to Mahesh and Leander Paes as our role models. We're great friends and I know if I'm in trouble or if I need anything I can go up to him for help as my friend, he's not my agent, I can go to him as my friend. In terms of commercial there are a few deals I have and I think I endorse about six or seven companies: Hyundai, Sprite.

Tennis Week: ESPN2 always airs the Lotto commercial you're in during its tournament coverage.

Sania Mirza: The funny thing about that is I didn't shoot for that commercial, they got those clips from the U.S. Open. That's what makes it so cool: every time I have to do a shoot I have to spend a day or two days shooting in these remote places.

Tennis Week: In the States, one recent topic of tennis conversation is the state of American tennis and is it in decline. Yet globally, we're seeing the Chinese woman really starting to make an impact, we've already had the Russian revolution and you've made a breakthrough for Indian woman. Where do you see the game growing globally and how important is the spread of tennis to the east and other areas of the world vital for the future of the game?

Sania Mirza: Of all the sports I've seen, I think tennis is the most competitive sport you can find of all the sports in the world. Because we are playing week after week, 36 weeks a year competing against the same players over and over again. We get one month off at the end of the year and we still have to practice that month because you have the Australian Open in January. There is never a period where we are not thinking or working on tennis. It's so competitive right now and I think it's great that our sport it world wide. There's this girl, Emma (Laine) from Finland and I didn't even know anyone from Finland until I met her. She's top 70 now. I played against her in Cincinnati so I know she's really good. We have a lot of players coming from India. When I go to practice at the stadium and before when I used to play under 10 tournaments we used to get people just go come to fill out an eight-player draw and we used to get girls who didn't even know how to play tennis just to fill out the draws. Now, you have 200 entries in the under-10 and under-12 tournaments in India. That just proves how many people have picked up tennis racquets in India. You just don't know who is going to make it and who can make the top 100 because just making the top 500 can be so difficult. But at least the attempt is there. Everyone believes you can be a sportsperson in India and you don't have to be a cricketer. It used to be "Oh, you're a sportsperson, you play cricket?" "No, I play tennis." And that's not weird anymore. People don't make fun of the parents when they say they are sending their child to play tennis. I don't know if it will happen in the next two years, five years or 10 years, but just in the way China had a sudden breakthrough, in my time, India might have that breakthrough too.

Tennis Week: So the future Fed Cup final will be China vs. India?

Sania Mirza: (laughs). Let's hope so.
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old Aug 23rd, 2006, 10:14 PM
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Good Interview. Thanks for that.
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old Aug 23rd, 2006, 10:15 PM
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thanx for this article : )

This place is too small to put all the players i like here.
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old Aug 24th, 2006, 04:50 AM
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thanks good read
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old Aug 24th, 2006, 05:10 AM
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thanks for the article

.Maria Kirilenko.

A.K.A MakiriRocks
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old Aug 24th, 2006, 06:12 AM
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smart answers.


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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old Aug 24th, 2006, 06:17 AM
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OMG it's long... *will read the rest later*

She & Him @ Melkweg "The Max", Amsterdam 6th May 2010
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old Aug 24th, 2006, 01:50 PM
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Great interview! I like this kid. She knows what she's doing, doesn't she.
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old Aug 24th, 2006, 01:51 PM
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yeah,its a lonnggg one..Took me 1 or 2 days to prepare myself to read it.. but its a nice interview!! Hope she can do some damage at Open again


Martina Hingis Ana Ivanovic Myskina Safarova

When I have my goals set, I always attain them- Justine
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old Aug 24th, 2006, 02:26 PM
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Wonderful interview. Sania has got to be one of the wisest, most mature, women in tennis. She really is so level headed and realistic about herself, tennis and the world in general it is sometimes hard to believe she is so young. I have huge admiration for her.
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post #11 of 14 (permalink) Old Aug 24th, 2006, 02:29 PM
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Thanks a lot for the interview. Am going to read it for sure later.

"I wish I were as aggressive and serious as those floors too!!" - GOAT Cynthia Zimmerman
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post #12 of 14 (permalink) Old Aug 24th, 2006, 03:19 PM
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may the ghosts of Margaret Osborne DuPont, Louise Brough, Althea Gibson, Darlene Hard, Pauline Betz, Sarah Palfrey Cooke, Maureen Connolly, Doris Hart, Shirley Fry, Maria Bueno, Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Virginia Wade, Anita Lizana, Helen Wills, Helen Hull Jacobs, Alice Marble, Mary K. Browne, Hazel Wightman, Molla Bjurstedt Mallory and Betty Nuthall (An Anglo-Indian from England) will bless Sania at this Forest Hills tournament.

Or will it be curses from the players that were inflicted Evonne Goolagong, Bjorn Borg, Carole Caldwell Graebner, Rosie Casals, Jadwiga Jedrzejowska, Patricia Canning, Ann Haydon Jones, Nancy Richey, Kerry Mellville, Wendy Turnbull, Kitty McKane, Elizabeth Ryan, Phoebe Watson, Anna McCune Harper, Eileen Bennett Whitingstall, Patricia Ward, Carolyn Babcock, and Nancy Wynne Bolton?
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post #13 of 14 (permalink) Old Aug 24th, 2006, 04:51 PM
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she has got quite some breath there doesn't she

Jelena Jankovic 5EVA
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post #14 of 14 (permalink) Old Aug 24th, 2006, 05:11 PM
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Good answers! Sania is smart but how in the world can someone give this long answers! Its great that she likes Steffi Graf.
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