Australian Open 2008: Andrew's TV-report -
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Australian Open 2008: Andrew's TV-report

AUSTRALIAN OPEN (Melbourne, Australia; outdoor hard (Plexicushion); Grand Slam)

1. Photos
2. My preview
3. First round: Tulyaganova v Mirza review
4. Second-round result
5. Third round: Mirza v Williams TV-report
6. Mixed Doubles final

1. Photos

Search Getty Images for "mirza"

Various players including Sania:

Mixed Doubles finalist:

I have to say: Sania's looking very sexy this year! ;-)

2. My preview

I hoped that Sania Mirza would get to play a member of my Eternal Fanship [Iroda Tulyaganova] here, so that I can follow more closely what could well be the final Grand Slam of her career.

Sania is being prosecuted for "dishonouring the Indian flag", after she sat with her feet up and over it at the recent Hopman Cup. She will stand trial on 10th March, and the likely outcome is three years' imprisonment. This is not the first time that Sania has "dishonoured the Indian flag", the photographic evidence is plastered all over the Internet, and as she is a major star in India, they will want to make an example of her.

What's the world coming to when Sania is going to prison because someone published sole-shots of her in the presence of the Indian flag, when Günther Parche didn't have to spend a single day in jail for stabbing Monica Seles, and the burglars who tied up Anna Chakvetadze haven't even been caught yet? The logic of this world is simple: the innocent go down at the slightest faux pas while the guilty get off scot-free.

I've been a demi-fan of Sania since I first watched her play at Wimbledon 2005, and saw her groundstrokes of flairsome power. She's also very sexy, especially what I've seen of her so far this year.

Sania had a sophomore-slump in 2006, as she had to put up with the distractions of Muslim fundamentalists who issued a fatwa against her for playing tennis in bare legs. 2007 was better, as she compiled a 30:19 record and reached the Stanford final, beating three top-22 players back to back before losing to Anna Chakvetadze.

Sania has had a decent start to 2008, going 1:2 in Hopman Cup singles-rubbers, and reaching the quarter-finals of Hobart (beating two journeywomen, and losing to Flavia Pennetta on the day the flag-complaint was filed), while Iroda finished her miserable 2007 season with a quarter-final at ITF Dubai in December.

The only previous Iroda v Sania meeting was at the Asian Games in December 2006, when Iroda was on decent form, but possibly suffering from the back-injury that would wreck her 2007, and Sania won 6-3 6-0.

Apparently Sania is distraught about her prosecution - hardly a frame of mind conducive to successful tennis - but unless Iroda has been injury-free enough to do some amazing preparation in the last month, it will take a miracle for Iroda to come through this one.

3. First round: Tulyaganova v Mirza review (Tuesday 15th January)

Nice winner, nice loser:
+ SANIA MIRZA [31,DF] d. Iroda Tulyaganova [WC,EF], 6-4 6-2

An expected result after the year Iroda's had. She served a monstrous 11 double faults in nine service-games, and had a W:UE ratio of 15:31, while Sania's was 21:20. At least Iroda's serve has lost none of its power (up to 119mph), but she only got 50% of first serves in, and it made a huge difference when she did so.

At least it doesn't feel so bad that she lost to Sania, whom I like a lot as a player, and find very sexy. I also have a great deal of sympathy for Sania over the persecution she continues to suffer, and I hope she goes on to do all the things I unrealistically wanted Iroda to do at this tournament.

3.1 Articles

The following articles focus on Sania, but I've only included those that mention Iroda.

Mirza admits she considered quitting over flag-row (Reuters)
By Simon Cambers (Editing by Greg Stutchbury)
Sania Mirza, at the centre of controversy in India for reportedly disrespecting her national flag, admitted on Tuesday she had considered quitting the sport over the row.

But the 21-year-old, who advanced to the second round of the Australian Open with a 6-4 6-2 win over Iroda Tulyaganova of Uzbekistan, said it was only a fleeting thought, and she expected to be around for a while yet.

"I think a lot of thoughts went through my head in the last couple of weeks," Mirza told reporters.

"One of the thoughts was that [to quit the sport], but I wouldn't say it was serious enough that I am going to quit right now."

Mirza is the subject of a court-summons in the central city of Bhopal after a private citizen made a complaint under the country's Prevention of Insult to the National Honour Act.

The controversy surrounds a photograph taken at the Hopman Cup mixed-team event in Perth, played at the beginning of the year, that appeared to show Mirza's bare feet resting near the national flag.

The maximum punishment for the offence is a three-year jail-term, but Mirza, one of her country's biggest sporting-heroes, said she would never do anything to hurt India.

"I just know that I would not do anything to disrespect my country," she said.

"I love my country - I wouldn't be playing Hopman Cup otherwise - but besides that, I am not allowed to comment."

Mirza admitted, though, that her preparations for the year's first Grand-Slam event had been affected by the controversy.

"It's not easy to deal with things like that off the court," she said.

"Obviously there are some misunderstandings happening. I am not super-human, so it does affect me a little bit.

"I am not a politician here, to outsmart people and try to fight. That's not what I am trying to do - I am trying to play tennis, I am 21, and I am trying to do the best I can.

"However I try and block it out, it's still at the back of my mind. Under the circumstances, I am just glad I came through the first round."

Sania Mirza tries to focus on the court despite troubles off
By Dennis Passa: AP Sports Writer
In her darkest moments, Sania Mirza wonders if she should quit tennis.

The Indian tennis-star wishes her only concern before a match was to study her opponent. But it is hardly that simple.

Instead, she's taking phone-calls from lawyers in India, answering questions about her loyalty to her country, and defending her Muslim beliefs.

"It's not easy to deal with things like that off the court. I am not superhuman so it does affect me," Mirza said Tuesday after her first-round victory at the Australian Open. "As much as I try to block it out, it's still in the back of your mind."

When she first came on the WTA Tour full time three years ago - her first Grand Slam was the Australian Open in 2005 - she was often criticised for her short skirts and midriff-revealing T-shirts that put her at odds with sections of the orthodox Muslim clergy.

Now her nationalism has been questioned. She was photographed at the Hopman Cup in Perth this month with her bare feet near an Indian flag.

On 9th January, a social worker in India went to court in Bhopal and had a judge issue a summons under the "Prevention of Insult to the National Honour Act." The court was told that Mirza disrespected the Indian flag by "sitting in a manner so that her feet pointed at the flag, which he felt was derogatory and had hurt him."

Mirza insists she would never show lack of respect for India.

"I love my country," said Mirza, who is from the southern city of Hyderabad. "I wouldn't be playing Hopman Cup otherwise. But other than that, I am not allowed to comment because it is before the courts."

Last week, she said she considered quitting tennis and ending a career that has brought her one WTA Tour title and seven final-appearances.

"It does play on your mind. You do start to think that at the end of the day, I am not a politician to outsmart people," Mirza said. "That's not what I am trying to do, which is to play tennis. I'm 21 and trying to be the best I can be.

"A lot of thoughts went through my head in the past couple of weeks, and one of the thoughts was [quitting]. But I wouldn't say that they were serious enough that I would quit right now."

On Tuesday, the 31st-seeded Mirza won 6-4 6-2 over wild card Iroda Tulyaganova of Uzbekistan.

"It was very tricky to play again," Mirza said. "I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to blank out everything and play a tennis-match."

In 2005, she became the first Indian woman to advance to the third round of a Grand Slam, losing to Serena Williams in Australia after being granted a wild card.

"It is very special," she said. "There were a lot of firsts involved."

This year, she could face Venus Williams in the third round if she beats Switzerland's Timea Bascinszky in the second round.

"I always feel confident when I come back here," she said.

"At the end of the day, it is a sport, and we deal with bad line-calls on a daily basis," Mirza says, then adds, smiling, "I have my own set of controversies to deal with."

Sania Mirza is failing to fly the flag for India
By Martin Johnson for The Daily Telegraph <>
National pride: Sania Mirza is proving popular but controversial

Melbourne is a long way from home for a young girl from Hyderabad, and ordinarily Sania Mirza would have been pleased to see one of her supporters waving an Indian flag when she walked onto court for her first-round women's singles match at the Australian Open yesterday.

On this occasion, however, the sight of it more likely made her break out into a nervous sweat. A couple of weeks ago, the 21-year-old was photographed with her feet up while watching a colleague playing in an international exhibition-match in Perth, and the proximity of her toes to a nearby Indian flag has raised temperatures in her home-state to vindaloo-levels.

A High Court lawyer has even gone so far as to file a case for her arrest (without bail) and a three-year jail-sentence.

The initial hearing is due to be held this week under something called the "Prevention Of Insult To The National Honour Act", citing "disrespect" to the national flag. India's predilection for red tape, taught to them by the Imperial British, but since refined to gargantuan levels, means that by the time the case gets to court she will probably be a grandmother, but it's a bit of worry nonetheless.

The sight of the flag may have been responsible for her going 1-3 behind early on to Iroda Tulyaganova of Uzbekistan, but she rallied to win comfortably enough in straights sets: 6-4 6-2. The No 31 seed did admit, though, that staying focused was becoming quite a feat when all the attention was on her feet.

"All I want to do is play tennis," she said, which was a bit of a surprise given that tennis is what keeps landing her in hot water.

When she first started out on the pro circuit at the age of 18, the length of her skirts prompted some religious mullah to issue a fatwa, which was a bit of a handicap to her chosen profession given that fashion in women's tennis-apparel has moved on - not to mention up - since Suzanne Lenglen's knickers were covered by several petticoats and a skirt which picked up chalk from the baseline.

Sania's skirt yesterday was no more than a pelmet, although she did offer a compromise by wearing underwear that resembled a pair of bicycle-shorts. She was taking more of a chance with her choice of top though, which flew up over her navel every time she launched herself into a serve.

When Sania, who is Shia Muslim, first bared her thighs on a tennis-court, people took to the streets to burn effigies of her, although this in itself is such a common event in India that it more or less doubles the smog-levels. It's most prevalent after a game of cricket, and there is barely an Indian batsman in history who hasn't had an effigy of himself set on fire.

Sania, who apparently records more hits on the Google Internet-site than even a cricketing-icon like Sachin Tendulkar, only narrowly escaped another fatwa last month by issuing a written apology for filming an advertisement close to a mosque, so one way or another, she keeps putting her foot in it.

Or in the case of flags, on it.

Indians seem to be acutely sensitive over issues that wouldn't raise an eyebrow elsewhere, and their cricketers - currently on the other side of the country in Perth - recently made a complaint (later withdrawn) over an Australian bowler calling one of them a "bastard." This tells you that they don't know much about Australians, for whom the word is close to a term of endearment.

Sania confessed that all the fuss back at home had affected her to the extent of wondering whether it was worthwhile carrying on playing, but she would have had to have been mentally away with the pixies to have been bothered by yesterday's opponent.

The girl from Uzbekistan might have been more of a handful had there not been a net between her and her opponent, which she found so regularly she'd have more chance of making it as a striker for Tashkent United.

She also racked up 11 double faults in nine service-games, but at least Miss Tulyaganova didn't have to worry about the consequences of displaying her knickers: a natty shade of orange.

Sania, on the other hand, could be facing yet another fatwa for her behaviour immediately after leaving the court, when she walked up to a man and - shock, horror - kissed him.

True, it was the lightest of pecks on both cheeks, and she was merely greeting her coach, but back home in Hyderabad, some bearded Indian cleric may already be demanding the death-penalty.

Women tennis-players approached to throw matches
By Dennis Passa: AP Sports Writer
Iroda Tulyaganova of Uzbekistan, who lost her first-round match on Tuesday to India's Sania Mirza, attended Saturday's meeting [with WTA CEO Larry Scott and 250 female players]. She said it was important that the gambling-issues were discussed.

"The public has to know that the outcome of our matches are fair, that they aren't affected by people on the Tour or off it who stand to make money from the result," said Tulyaganova. "It's the only way we can have any credibility."

Mirza said she has "never been approached, and I do not know personally of anyone who has been approached" to throw matches.

"As far as we know, women's tennis is clean," she said. "A lot has happened of course in the men's and there is a lot of talk.

"I think there needs to be a punishment - it's a profession."

Match-fixing is another prime example of what I was saying about the innocent being punished while the guilty get off scot-free. The ATP have dragged Nikolay Davydenko's name through the mud without any proof of wrongdoing, and banned three Italian men who bet on tennis-matches other than their own, but they are no closer to catching the real villains (and it's a fair bet that match-fixing does go on in the lower echelons of tennis) until they start bugging the locker-rooms, and using wiretappers and packet-sniffers to monitor telephone- and Internet-conversations.

The ATP talk about suspicious betting-patterns, but I'm more concerned about suspicious banning-patterns, given that they target Italians over gambling and Argentinians over doping.

And if it's true that the Russian Mafia are forcing players to throw matches, God help us.

4. Second-round result (Thursday 17th January)

Nice winner, nice loser:
+ SANIA MIRZA [31,DF] d. Timea Bacsinszky [Q], 6-1 4-6 7-5

Victorious Mirza shrugs off court-case worries (Reuters)
By Simon Cambers (editing by Ossian Shine)
Indian Sania Mirza showed she is putting the controversy that haunted her Australian Open preparations well behind her on Thursday as she battled to the third round in Melbourne.

The 21-year-old overcame Swiss qualifier Timea Bacsinszky 6-1 4-6 7-5 to reach the last 32 and a match against Venus Williams, and said she was proud she had been able to focus on her tennis.

"I am very pleased by winning a match like this today, because a lot has been happening in the last couple of weeks off the court," Mirza said.

"I was down 3-1 (30/30) [in the third set], and I could have said I was just mentally not there - it would have been a good excuse - but I proved I am strong and hopefully I can continue to do that."

Mirza is the subject of a court-summons in Bhopal after a private citizen made a complaint under the country's Prevention of Insult to the National Honour Act.

The controversy surrounds a photograph taken at the Hopman Cup mixed-team event in Perth, played at the beginning of the year, that appeared to show Mirza's bare feet resting near the national flag.

Mirza said she was looking forward to a meeting with Williams, having played her sister Serena at the same stage in Melbourne three years ago, when she became the first Indian woman to reach the third round of a Grand Slam event.

"I am very excited to play Venus," she said.

"I have nothing to lose and feel like I am playing well. I want to try to get a good start."

5. Third round: Mirza v Williams TV-report (Saturday 19th January)

- SANIA MIRZA [31,DF] lt. VENUS WILLIAMS [8], 6-7 (0/7) 4-6

Poor Sania. This may well have been her final Grand Slam, as she now faces up to three years in prison for "dishonouring the Indian flag" with her sole-shots at the recent Hopman Cup. Her trial is on 10th March.

This was a great performance by Sania, with flairsome groundstrokes that frequently overpowered Williams from the baseline, and some nice spreading rallies. If only Sania had a decent serve, she'd be top ten - but it hasn't improved, and the commentators also said she relied too much on her instinct rather than thoughtful point-construction.

There was some debate about whether this match should be relegated to the Vodafone Arena after Roger Federer's late finish, but both women stood their ground, and I'm glad they did or BBCi wouldn't have televised it! The following match (Hewitt v Baghdatis - Chris Bailey predicted a riot if /that/ would have been dropped from the schedule) therefore finished at 4:33am - the latest-ever finish to a day's play at a Grand Slam!

Sania came onto court looking quite scared, I think. It's pretty intimidating coming out to face a Williams-sister on the Rod Laver evening-seesion.

Sania had a long vertical plaster on her right leg. She looked very sexy, especially once she took her warm-up top off!

With a very late finish to the day-session, the match started at exactly 22:00 AEDT.

First set
MIRZA _* *@* *___*_ 6(0)
WILLI * *___* *@* T 7(7)

Williams serving 0-0: Williams forehand long. 0/15. Williams came to the net, rushing Sania into ballooning a backhand pass wide. 15/15. Sania took the initiative with a deep return, but Williams got a lucky netcord-winner. 30/15. Sania played a great rally, her crosscourt forehand into the corner forcing Williams into error. 30/30. Sania netted a forehand return. 40/30. Williams forehand wide. 40/40. Sania forehand just long. Ad Williams. Sania sprayed a backhand long.

Not a convincing start by Williams. It's Sania who is dominating the rallies with winners or errors!

Sania serving 0-1: Sania backhand just long. 0/15. Williams backhand just long. 15/15. Service-winner out wide: just inside the sideline. 30/15. Williams forehand just long. 40/15. A deep return forced Sania to hit a backhand long. 40/30. Williams backhand long.

Sam Smith said Sania should be ranked much higher than she is: that she has top-ten groundstrokes but a weak serve that breaks down technically.

Sania is similar to Elena Dementieva, then. The differences - according to the commentators - are that Sania's serve is technically weak while Dementieva's serve is more of a mental problem, and Dementieva is a better mover. I would add that Sania's groundstrokes are much more flairsome than Dementieva's.

Williams serving 1-1: Williams came to the net, forcing Sania to net a backhand. 15/0. Williams forehand wide. 15/15. Williams drove Sania wide, forcing her to hit a forehand long. 30/15. Service-winner. 40/15. Service-winner.

Sania serving 1-2: Williams's forehand return down the line forced Sania to earth a backhand - leaning the wrong way. 0/15. Williams played a good spreading rally, forcing Sania to earth another backhand. 0/30. Service-winner. 15/30. Williams hit a backhand halfway up the net. 30/30. Williams backhand long. 40/30. Sania, stretched low & wide with Williams at the net, hit a wonderful crosscourt backhand pass-winner.

Williams serving 2-2: Second serve: Sania cracked a crosscourt forehand return-winner. 0/15. Sania should have hit a crosscourt forehand into the open court, but went down the line instead, came to the net and got passed (Sania clipped it with her racket). 15/15. Williams netted a forehand. 15/30. A good crosscourt forehand deep into the corner forced Williams to net a forehand. 15/40 (2 BPs). Sania played a fabulous spreading rally ending with a forehand volley-winner!

Chris Bailey: "You could see Mirza doing this tonight. If she has a good serving-day and can just peg Williams back, you could say she is better from the back of the court."

Sam Smith said Sania was a very instinctive player: basically striking the ball without thinking.

Sania serving 3-2: Williams forehand long. 15/0. Williams forehand long. 30/0. Serve out wide + forehand winner down the line. 40/0. Sania netted a backhand. 40/15. Serve out wide + off-forehand winner right in the corner.

Williams serving 2-4: Service-winner. 15/0. Williams off-backhand winner. 30/0. Body-jamming serve: Sania netted a backhand return. 40/0. Williams netted a forehand. 40/15. Virtual ace out wide: right in the corner.

Sania serving 4-3: Another lovely spreading rally from Sania with a forehand winner down Williams's forehand-line. 15/0. Acute crosscourt forehand + crosscourt backhand winner! 30/0. Double fault (second serve just long - elbow getting tucked up in her body). 30/15. Williams crosscourt forehand winner right in the corner. 30/30. A deep forehand from Sania forced Williams to hit a half-volley forehand from the baseline wide. 40/30. A wonderful deep forehand from Sania forced Williams into error.

Sarah Holt for BBC Sport: "Mirza is moving really well around the court, and that is probably where she is giving Venus most trouble."

Williams serving 3-5: Service-winner. 15/0. Second serve: Sania forehand return-winner down Williams's forehand-line. 15/15. Sania sprayed a forehand very long, and muttered "rubbish". 30/15. Williams blasted a forehand just long. 30/30. Sania netted a backhand on the fourth stroke, after a huge serve from Williams. 40/30. Williams netted a backhand off a deep ball on the baseline from Sania. 40/40. Sania forehand wide (Sania wasted a challenge, even though it was well wide). Ad Williams. Sania's crosscourt forehand forced Williams to net a forehand. Deuce #2. Sania forehand wide, and yelled. Ad Williams. Sania forehand long.

Sam Smith: "All Venus is doing is giving her plenty of pace, and that's what she [Sania] loves."

Sania serving 5-4: Williams short-angled crosscourt forehand winner just inside the sideline. 0/15. Williams forced Sania to hit a forehand just wide. 0/30. Williams mishit a forehand into the net. 15/30. Williams backhand long off a netcord from Sania. 30/30. Williams off-backhand winner right in the corner, caught the outside edge of the sideline. 30/40 (BP). Sania blasted a crosscourt backhand would-be winner just wide.

Sania didn't do much wrong there - all credit to Williams.

Williams serving 5-5: Williams crosscourt forehand winner. 15/0. Sania forehand return just long. 30/0. Ace down the middle. 40/0. Ace out wide.

Sania serving 5-6: Sania netted a forehand. 0/15. Sania netted a forehand. 0/30. Williams netted a backhand. 15/30. A longish baseline-rally ended with Williams hitting a crosscourt forehand right in the corner - Sania's movement found wanting. 15/40 (SP #1). Serve + crosscourt forehand winner off a very short return. 30/40 (SP #2). Sania came to the net behind a forehand down the line, forcing Williams to hit a backhand wide. 40/40. Sania handled Williams's depth, but Williams didn't handle Sania's, hitting a forehand long. Ad Sania. Sania opened up the court with a beautiful crosscourt forehand, but netted a choky forehand down the open line, and screamed. Deuce #2. Serve + crosscourt backhand winner. Ad Sania. She forced a short ball, and this time made no mistake putting away an easy crosscourt forehand winner.

6-6 tiebreak: Williams *0/0. Sania dumped a forehand return into the net - didn't move into the court to meet the serve. Sania *0/1. Williams punished a weak second serve with a crosscourt forehand winner into the corner. Chris Bailey said Sania's serve was way too predictable. Sania *0/2. Sania backhand just long. Williams *3/0. Service-winner: Sania forehand return wide. Williams *4/0. First serve into the body: Sania forehand return long. Sania *0/5. Williams came to the net, forced a defensive lob from Sania, and dispatched it with a forehand smash-winner. Sania *0/6 (SP #3). Second serve: Williams forehand return-winner down the line, caught the outside edge of the line. Williams won the first set 7-6 (7/0) at 22:50 (50m).

Sam Smith said Sania played a good set, and would have won it against most top-ten players.

Second set
MIRZA * * *___*_ 4
WILLI _* * *@* * 6

Sania serving 0-0: In a 19-stroke rally, Sania threw in a moonball, inducing Williams to hit a forehand just long. 15/0. Service-winner. 30/0. Sania gave Williams the angle to hit a crosscourt forehand winner - Sania is vulnerable to those short, aggressive angles. 30/15. Williams forehand wide. 40/15. Sania came to the net and hit a beautiful high off-forehand punch-volley winner.

Williams serving 0-1: Body-jamming service-winner. 15/0. Sania cracked a fabulous running crosscourt backhand pass-winner. 15/15. Sania went for a backhand but put it wide. 30/15. Service-winner. 40/15. Williams forehand just long. 40/30. Sania sprayed a wild forehand return very long, and shouted in frustration.

Sam Smith said Sania was an amazing ball-striker, but not consistent week in week out.

Sania serving 1-1: Double fault (second serve just wide). 0/15. Sania ran down a short return, but slapped a backhand into the net (her skirt hiked up to reveal her midriff, much to the wrath of the jihadists no doubt). 0/30. Williams netted a forehand. 15/30. Sania hit a forehand onto the baseline (and came to the net), forcing Williams to net a forehand. 30/30. Sania backhand just long. 30/40 (BP). Sania hit a sweet crosscourt forehand winner. 40/40. Sania played a lovely spreading rally: crosscourt forehand + off-forehand forced Williams into error. Ad Sania. Service-winner (Williams forehand return just wide).

I'm very impressed by Sania today. She's playing much better than when I last saw her play (Birmingham 2007), and even better than when she pushed Kuznetsova at Wimbledon 2005. Flairsome power, spreading rallies, sexy looks - a bit one-dimensional, but while I'm not asking myself the Eternal Fanship question right now, I'm seriously considering changing the order of my demi-fanship to give more weight to tennis-qualities over the girls I like primarily for their looks.

Williams serving 1-2: Ace. 15/0. Williams hit a forehand halfway up the net. 15/15. Sania forehand just long. 30/15. Williams hit a deep crosscourt backhand winner. 40/15. Sania forehand wide.

Sam Smith praised the length Sania's been keeping on her groundstrokes.

Sania serving 2-2: Williams backhand wide. 15/0. Sania played a fantastic spreading rally with a forehand volley-winner - who says she has no point-construction? 30/0. Service-winner. 40/0. Sania went for a forehand winner down the line, but put it just wide. She gave a little smile. 40/15. Sania came to the net, but Williams forced her to play a weak low volley, and hit a backhand pass-winner down the line. 40/30. Sania took the initiative with a deep crosscourt forehand onto the baseline, and hit a crosscourt forehand winner back behind Williams.

Chris Bailey said Williams might have an extra day off before her fourth-round match - then hastily added "or Mirza".

Williams serving 2-3: Williams crosscourt forehand winner just inside the sideline. 15/0. Sania netted a forehand. 30/0. Sania sprayed a forehand long. 40/0. Williams netted a forehand off Sania's deep return. 40/15. Sania netted a forehand.

Sania serving 3-3: Sania sprayed a backhand wide. 0/15. Williams's forehand hit the netcord and fell back on her side. 15/15. Sania hit a beautiful error-forcing crosscourt backhand. 30/15. Double fault #4. 30/30. Sania forehand just long - but she challenged and Hawkeye showed that it caught the outside edge of the baseline. Replay: Williams forehand just long, it was overruled as good but Sania challenged it and it was indeed in, so they had to replay the point again! Williams forehand winner down the line. 30/40 (BP). Williams forehand just long. 40/40. Williams punished a second serve with a deep crosscourt forehand, forcing Sania to earth a forehand. Ad Williams (BP #2). Sania netted a forehand on the third stroke.

Sania is serving to Williams's forehand predictably often.

Williams serving 4-3: Ace out wide: just inside the sideline. 15/0. Sania, driven wide, went for a backhand pass-winner down the line, but it was just wide. 30/0. Sania dumped a backhand into the net - the first real sign of a dip in her form. 40/0. Double fault #1 (second serve long). 40/15. Sania spread Williams, and her crosscourt backhand forced Williams to earth a backhand. 40/30. Sania netted a forehand return, and reacted with a cute little skip.

Williams is using a lot of body-serves today.

Sania serving 3-5: Sania forehand long. 0/15. Sania netted a forehand. 0/30. Williams netted a cheap backhand. 15/30. Williams, driven wide by Sania's crosscourt forehand, netted a forehand. 30/30. Sania's deep crosscourt forehand forced Williams to net a forehand. 40/30. Ace out wide: Williams used up a Hawkeye-challenge to show that it caught the outside edge of the sideline.

Williams serving 5-4: Ace out wide. 15/0. Ace down the middle. 30/0. First serve out wide: Sania netted a forehand return. 40/0. Sania netted a cheap forehand. Williams won 7-6 (7/0) 6-4 at 23:31.

Chris Bailey said it was Williams's best performance so far this tournament, so Sania should be proud of the scoreline she achieved. Just a bit of a dip at the end.

5.1 Articles

Venus battles past gutsy Mirza to reach last 16 (Reuters)
By Simon Cambers (Editing by Ed Osmond)
Eighth seed Venus Williams survived her toughest test at the Australian Open to beat Indian Sania Mirza 7-6 6-4 and reach the fourth round on Saturday.

Mirza produced a superb performance, but American Williams eventually wore her down to reach the last 16, and will next meet Li,Na of China or Polish qualifier Marta Domachowska.

India Mirza, seeded 31st, made an excellent start by snatching an early break, but the Wimbledon-champion broke back and played a flawless tiebreak, winning it 7/0.

Games went with serve in the second set until 3-3 when Williams broke, and she took her ace-count to seven while serving out for victory.

Venus Williams Australia Open survives slugfest with Mirza
by Neil Sands (AFP)
American eighth seed Venus Williams bludgeoned her way to victory in a slugfest with India's Sania Mirza to reach the last 16 of the Australian Open on Saturday.

Williams went behind in the first set, but blasted her way back for a 7-6 (7/0) 6-4 win over the 31st seed.

The Wimbledon-champion said before the match that she expected an aggressive display from Mirza, and the Indian delivered, looking like she was trying to belt the fuzz off every ball that came her way.

"She was definitely trying to dictate terms, so I just stuck with playing my game and didn't change it," Williams said.

But Williams said she always felt in control, even though Mirza went for broke and forced her onto the back foot early.

"I felt comfortable throughout the whole match," she said.

"I think ultimately I had a little more than her, and it helped me in the end. I'm definitely serving very well."

Mirza worked hard to attack Williams, and was rewarded with a break in the fifth game, when she went to the net and left Williams stranded at the baseline with a tightly-angled forehand return.

The 21-year-old held serve in the next two games to put the pressure on Williams at 5-3, coming within two points of taking the set, but the six-time Grand Slam champion held on.

Staring down the barrel, Williams lifted her intensity to break back, then blasted two aces in the next game to go up 6-5.

Mirza saved two set-points to take Williams to a tiebreak, but the American proved two strong, holding her opponent scoreless to take the set after 50 minutes.

But Williams still struggled to seize the momentum, and the second set went to serve as the pair tried to pound each other into submission with their power-hitting.

The 27-year-old veteran finally pulled clear when she broke Mirza to go up 4-3, going on to serve out the set and claim victory with two aces in the final game.

Overall, Williams was happy with her game heading into the final week of the tournament: the only Grand Slam to elude her.

She was unconcerned about the possibility of playing Serbian fourth seed Ana Ivanović in the quarter-finals, whom she defeated at Wimbledon and the US Open last year, but who has been one of the form-players at Melbourne Park.

"I'm ready," she said when asked about meeting the world number three again.

Williams must beat either Chinese 24th seed Li,Na or Polish qualifier Marta Domachowska to make the quarters.

Williams reached the Australian Open final in 2003 and the semis in 2001.

She pulled out with a wrist-injury last year, was sent packing in the first round in 2006, and failed to get beyond the fourth round in 2004 and 2005.

Beaten Mirza tells it straight (Reuters)
By Simon Cambers (Editing by Ed Osmond)
When her every action is scrutinised in a country of more than one billion people, India's Sania Mirza might be expected to choose her words carefully.

But after her narrow 7-6 6-4 defeat by Venus Williams in the Australian Open third round on Saturday, Mirza left the gathered reporters in no doubt as to how she was feeling.

"I'm a little disappointed, and tomorrow morning I'm going to wake up and feel even more like c*** about it," Mirza told reporters.

"I felt like I had the first set and should have closed it out at 5-4. But I take a lot of positives out of it. She's supposed to be one of the biggest hitters of the game, and I was out-hitting her. That's a very good thing for me."

After breaking Williams, Mirza served for the first set at 5-4, but the Wimbledon-champion hit back immediately and blasted through the tiebreak.

One break was enough to give eighth seed Williams the second set and a place in the last 16.

Mirza had matched the American from the baseline, but the former world number one had the distinct edge in the serve-department.

"I think we always knew she's one of the best servers in the game and I'm really not," Mirza said.

"I'm very critical about my game. I think I'm one of the worst servers in the game. If you want me to put it very, you know, matter-of-factly.

"I think I was still able to hold my own. I was able to hold my serve. Yes, of course she came up with the aces when she needed today, and I couldn't."

Venus Williams on Sania Mirza {before the match}: "She's a good player. She tries to play aggressive. Looks like she enjoys herself out there."

6. Mixed Doubles final (Sunday 27th January)

- Sania Mirza [DF]/Mahesh Bhupathi lt. (SUN,TIANTIAN/NENAD ZIMONJIĆ)[5], 6-7 (4/7) 4-6

It sure would have been nice if Sania could have finished her career with a Grand Slam title before she goes to prison for dishonouring the Indian flag.

Good luck with the trial.

Dr. Andrew Broad

My Eternal Fanship: 1. Monica Seles; 2. Мария Шарапова (‘Maria Sharapova’); 3. Daniela Hantuchová; 4. Jelena Dokić; 5. Iva Majoli; 6. Karina Habšudová; 7. Вера Звонарёва (‘Vera Zvonarëva’); 8. Nicole Vaidišová; 9. Анна Чакветадзе (‘Anna Chakvetadze’); 10. Lucie Šafářová; 11. Ирода Туляганова (‘Iroda Tulyaganova’); 12. Magdaléna Rybáriková; 13. Sabine Lisicki
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