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Old Feb 11th, 2005, 03:24 PM   #32
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Sania rallies into semis

Deepti Patwardhan in Hyderabad | February 10, 2005 19:58 IST
Last Updated: February 10, 2005 21:04 IST



With over 3,000 hearts beating for her, Sania Mirza couldn't have surrendered the battle. Every time she seemed down and out the spectators lifted her, charged her up for the next point and, eventually, she overcame Tzipora Obziler of Israel to enter the semi-finals of the WTA Hyderabad Open for the first time in three attempts.

</IMG>From a set down, the Indian teenage sensation staged a superb recovery to win 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) at the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh Tennis Complex on Thursday.

"It always helps to have so many people cheering for you. Whenever I was in trouble I would look at my father or my friends. So I think this was a team effort," said Mirza, exhausted after the match.

After losing the first set, Mirza held on tenaciously and found an answer to her lanky opponent's speed and steel. She broke Tzipora in the sixth game of the second set and held serve thereafter to take the set 6-3.

Also read: The making of Sania Mirza

The third-set was closely fought as both players kept threatening to break each other's serve. Tzipora, who survived a break-point in her first game, won three games on the trot.

The 18-year-old Indian, fresh from a good showing at the Australian Open where she lost in the third round, struggled to get her first serve in, but her groundstrokes proved too powerful for the Israeli. One particular rally saw her in total command as Tzipora ended up being too predictable. Playing mostly on the backhand from the baseline, the 21-year-old didn't have the variety to finish off the point.

"Even when I was 3-0 down in the third set I wasn't too bothered. I have come back from such situations before and was confident I could do it again. Obziler was running down a lot, making me hit one extra ball," she said.

Mirza got the set to 3-3 and then went on to dominate two more games. At 5-3, Obziler survived two match-points before the Indian teenager looked set to win the game serving at 5-4.

But the Israeli wasn't done yet; her two years in the army were eking out new gasps of energy. She won the game and held her serve in the next to put the pressure back on the Indian.

"I think at match-point I put too much pressure on myself," said Mirza.

Once into the tie-breaker, both players again struggled to win points on serve. Till 5-5, all the winning points came against serve. Then Mirza hit another killer forehand down the line to earn another match point. This time she finished the job quickly, setting up the winner after putting Tzipora out of the point with a superb return off a weak second serve.

Mirza will next play Maria Kirilenko of Russia in the semi-finals.

Kirilenko, a finalist at the tournament in 2004, had pulled off the biggest upset of the event earlier in the day by defeating the first seed Na Li of China 6-4, 6-3.

The other semi-final will be contested between Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany and Alyona Bondarenko of Ukraine.


Groenefeld beat Tian Tian Sun of China 7-6(7/5), 6-3 while Bondarenko beat Marie-eve Pelletier of Cananda 7-6(7/5), 6-4.
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