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Old Mar 2nd, 2005, 11:55 PM   #76
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If I were a guy I would be playing cricket: Sania

March 02, 2005



Long school holidays stretching into the summer led Sania Mirza to find a hobby. Tennis was the winner and now, aged just 18, Mirza is the toast of a billion Indians.

</IMG>The youngster spent those holidays honing a power-packed game -- one which enabled her to become the first Indian woman to win a WTA Tour title last month and this week to beat US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.

It has vaulted her onto the front pages in her homeland but despite the frenzied praise the teenager remains firmly grounded.

She had never set out to become a millionaire tennis star, she merely fell in love with her hobby.

"Maybe if I were a guy I would be playing cricket," she said.

"My parents were always very sports-minded. They never wanted me to play tennis professionally, but they wanted their child to play a sport, whatever it was.

"I used to go swimming and passed the tennis courts every day, and that's how it started. My mum said 'Why don't you play tennis in your summer holidays because you have nothing to do except swim for an hour or whatever?', and that's how I started playing.

"And tennis just suited my style and personality."

DISARMINGLY HONEST

It is not uncommon for the Tour's leading lights to wax lyrical about the strength of their forehand or serve or tactical acumen, but Mirza is disarmingly honest about her strengths and weaknesses.

"To be honest, I'm not that fast on my feet," she said. "But I have amazing timing on the ball which is why, although I'm not that strong, I still hit the ball harder than most of the players on the circuit.

Also Read

Interview - Sania Mirza

'My aim is to be a top 50 pro'

Sania wins Hyderabad Open

Sania goes down fighting


"It just suited the way I'm built. Maybe if I played squash or badminton I needed more movement, more reflexes. So, it just happened.

"It wasn't as if we sat down one day and decided I was going to become a professional tennis player. It just happened over a period of time.

"Until I was 12 or 13 it was just fun. We had never thought that I was going to make it. My parents never put any pressure on me, even when I was 10 years old and went to play a match. They never told me I had to win it.

"They always just told me to hit the ball as hard as I can and we'll see what happens."

Nobody could have predicted what would happen.

Earlier this year she became the first Indian woman to reach the third round of a Grand Slam, before falling to eventual champion Serena Williams at the Australian Open.

POTENTIAL BOYFRIEND

Two weeks later she made history again, beating Russian's Alyona Bondarenko in the final of the Hyderabad Open to become the first Indian woman to win a Tour event, 46 years after Ramanathan Krishnan became the first Indian man to win a title, at London's Queen's Club.

But success has not come easy and it has taken sacrifice.

"When I was 12 or 13, it was difficult, yes," she said. "I think it's natural to want to do what others your age are doing, so I guess you do have to make some sacrifices.

"I realised that if you don't make those sacrifices I don't think you can make something out of your life and I wouldn't be sitting here now.

"Sometimes I did feel I was missing out, like sometimes I'd want to go to a birthday party but I couldn't because I had tennis at four.

"Or sometimes I'd want to go out for a movie but I couldn't because I had to get up at six every morning. But it doesn't bother me now because I'm very happy with what is happening with my life right now."

Such is her devotion to the sport, she has no time for distractions. She does, however, know what she is looking for in a potential boyfriend.

"He has to be good looking and over six feet tall," she giggled.

"No, on a serious note, I think he needs to understand me and he needs to be a nice person and not have any ego hassles.

"I need a guy who understands me."

(Reuters)
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Old Mar 3rd, 2005, 01:49 AM   #77
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DOWN 0-4, 30-40, and injured
Mirza rallies to beat US Open champion
WHAT a player? What a comeback?



Sania Mirza, the new Asian heart-throb on the world women's tennis scene, produced a remarkable recovery from a huge deficit and injury to beat the US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.

The 18-year-old Indian needed a 10-minute time-out for attention to an ankle injury after an early fall and was then 0-4 and 30-40 down before bouncing back to a startling straight-set victory over the Russian.

The 6-4, 6-2 triumph, which was cheered by thousands of Indian expatriates who made it like a home match for Mirza, carried the Hyderabad teenager into the third round of the Dubai Open as a wild card.

It followed her achievement in January in reaching the third round of the Australian Open as a wild card. Eventually she lost to former world No. 1 Serena Williams.

Subsequently she won the Hyderbad Open.

What made it all the more extraordinary was that once Mirza started to move better and strike the ball more fluently, she frequently outhit one of the heaviest hitters in the game, especially with her flat forehand drive.

There seemed no chance of anything like that happening when Mirza was within a point of a 0-5 deficit, and she admitted she had had no hopes of winning at that stage.

She said: 'My ankle was killing me. It was the third time in three weeks (it happened) and I was crying because I was in so much pain. I was disturbed because always my ankles are getting injured.

'But I got it re-taped and took a pain-killer, and that started to work after about 15 minutes. I don't know quite how I did it because I couldn't move that well.

'I was scrambling to the ball but I think I made hardly any errors from 0-4 down. I tried to get winners really fast because I thought I might not be able to move.

'I think from about 4-3 she started to get upset. I knew she was getting tense and that was why I wanted to put more pressure on her which I succeeded in doing. The crowd inspired me.'

Mirza took seven games in a row before Kuznetsova regained some semblance of rhythm, but although she was trying to hang in hard at 2-3 down in the second set she seemed too unsettled by the barrage of flat fast winners and the noise to regain control.

'I started well and she was nervous, but I didn't do anything to make her play like that,' said a puzzled Kuznetsova afterwards.

'She had nothing to lose and she played great, but I attacked hardly at all and didn't make her move. But this is the game - this is what happens,' the world No. 7 added.

Mirza next plays either Silvia Farina Elia of Italy or Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, both unseeded players. If Mirza wins again she will be in the semi-finals - little more than two weeks after winning her first WTA Tour title in her home city of Hyderabad. - AFP

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http://www.wtatour.com/newsroom/stor...le_6226_rx.asp

March 2, 2005

© Charles Crowell
Mirza Goes Back To School In Dubai

DUBAI, U.A.E. - Sania Mirza caused a frenzy of excitement at Dubai's Indian High School Wednesday when she made a brief appearance in front of hundreds of star-struck students.



Mirza, who defeated reigning US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Dubai Duty Free Women's Open Tuesday night, visited the school to meet the students and congratulate 12-year-old Shivangi Gandhi, who won the Dubai Tennis Championships colouring-in competition.

Shivangi greeted Sania with flowers upon her arrival before taking the Indian icon through to a packed assembly room where she spoke of the fame that has suddenly engulfed her following impressive performances earlier this year.

"I was thrilled to meet her," said Shivangi, who was presented with a signed photograph of Mirza. "She was amazing."

Mirza burst upon the tennis world by becoming the first Indian woman to reach the third round of a Grand Slam, before falling 61 64 to eventual Australian Open champion Serena Williams, who is also competing in the Dubai Duty Free Women' Open for the first time.

Two weeks later Mirza made history again, winning the final of the Hyderabad Open in front of Congressional President Sonia Gandhi to become the first Indian woman to win a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title.

Mirza caused plenty of interest when she won in the city of her birth, Hyderabad, and that attention has followed her to Dubai where the large expat population has welcomed the opportunity to see the young sensation themselves. They filled the 5000-seat stadium last night, generating almost as much attention as Andre Agassi last week.

And with plenty of enthusiasm and a down-to-earth approach, the 18-year-old, who was accompanied by her mother Naseema today, spoke to the students about the sacrifices that are needed to succeed and offered plenty of practical advice to the wide eyed youngsters.

"Whatever it is you do, whether it is studying, working, or playing sport, you have to be focused and determined but most of all the fun should be a part of everything it is you do," Mirza told them.

The students also had the chance to ask their heroine some questions, with Mirza openly talking about her hobbies, how she relaxes, what's important to her, how she balanced school and tennis, and how she started playing the game.

Her answers were often given enthusiastic applause, with the biggest response coming after her answer to what her motto is.

"It is nice to be important, but more important to be nice," Mirza said.

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http://www.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=42578

I am not going to pose in a bikini: Sania


Posted online: Wednesday, March 02, 2005 at 1416 hours IST
Updated: Thursday, March 03, 2005 at 0552 hours IST

ē She is perhaps the most loved teenager in this country since Sachin Tendulkar burst on the scene. Sania Mirza, welcome to Walk the Talk in your school, which you left last year.

It is an even greater pleasure to be here. Itís just so lovely to see my school uniform again.

ē But you donít have to study, no exams, no nothing...

Yeah thatís the better part of it. I donít have to write my exams, and I donít have to study. But I do have my exams coming up shortly in my BA Mass Communication so...

ē But more than that exam... You know, the next tournament.

I think those are tougher exams than what I actually gave last year over here, sitting in that hall downstairs. Getting up at six in the morning and playing week after week.

ē Whatís tougher: the Class XII student fighting for grades and percentages to get into college, or now ó getting up, exercise, gym, training...

Well, for me, I donít know... Itís right now...

ē The media?

Yes, thatís tough. But for me right now, itís tennis and itís really bad because I have to get up in the morning and... You know, every single day of my life, just practicing eight hours a day. I am sure it is the same thing for all the people trying to get 95 per cent in their boards also. So I guess itís wrong to compare these two things.

ē But 95 per cent, even 99 per cent in the boards, tells them you need to earn your living next year...

Yes, but I think for some people it is very important to get 95 per cent or 98 per cent. But when I gave my boards I just wanted to pass.

ē But you did fine.

Yes, got about 64, so it was okay.

ē Tell me, whatís your day like now?

Well, right now, I am on an off because my ankles are both injured. So I am just taking it easy, sleeping late, getting up late...

ē But usually, during your training time, whatís your day like?

Well, when I am training, I get up at six in the morning. I am at the courts by 7:15 am, warm up, practice till about 9:30-10 am. I come back, have breakfast, go to college, do whatever little work I have in college. Then by 2 pm, I have to come back. I am back at the tennis court at 2:30 pm, have lunch, maybe in the car or something. I come back at 6 pm, go to the gym, then return by 7:30 pm. I am dead by 7:30 pm, sometimes I may go for a massage after that, or I am just asleep by 10:30 pm.

ē Is there any difference in the way you train from the way your rivals train?

Well, I really donít know. Maybe some of them train less than what I do, some of them may train more than I do. So I really donít know how to compare that. But I know I am training hard, eight hours a day, 365 days a year. I donít think it is easy.

ē It is tough on the body as well.

Definitely. Thatís why we end up with so many injuries, I guess. Right now, both my ankles are injured and I have a little bit of thigh strain. So injuries are just a part of every athlete, whether tennis player or cricketer.

ē Thatís what happens to sportstars in this country. Sachin Tendulkar gets a bad elbow, the entire country gets a bad elbow.

I know. Everyday I read about my ankles more than I know about my ankles. Well, thatís the way India treats their stars, treats their idols.

ē And loads of advice, from homeopathy to acupressure...

Loads of advice, homeopathy to allopathy to physiotherapy...

ē So, who looks after your body and your fitness?

Over here, I train with a guy called Fayaaz, he is from EST ó thatís Azharuddinís gym here. My physiotherapist, well, the Indian cricket teamís, actually the Hyderabad cricket teamís is Mr Badrinath. Heís treating me right now, I did take a stint with Andrew Leipus too, but he is not here any more so...

ē I believe Azhar takes a lot of interest in your fitness...

Yes, he does. He is a great inspiration for me. I mean he is such a great athlete and...

ē He has been one of our fittest cricketers.

He probably is one of the fittest.

ē I have not seen someone his age with such a flat stomach.

Definitely, at 42-43... He gives me a complex. He is unbelievably fit, and whenever he is in town he tries to advise me.

ē Is there something that he complains about?

Yes, that I eat too much... Everytime I am with him, I have to tell him my whole diet for the past one week, which I hate doing. So I try to cut down when I am around him. I try not to eat so I donít have to lie to him.

ē So when one Hyderabadi questions another on what you eat and how much you eat, itís all about biryani isnít it?

Definitely, but I have cut down on my biryanis quite a lot.

ē Do you think that tennis involves a lot of self denial. You know, not just fitness and eating but also the kind of life you lead, the circuit?

I guess in any sport you have to give a lot of sacrifices, but tennis is never-ending. Definitely, it is one of the toughest sports I have seen.

ē Cricket has a season...

Yes, in tennis, you are playing all year round. And you are missing out on your normal life I guess. But now it all seems worth it, you know, when you perform. I guess when you donít perform, thatís when it really hits you that maybe I am taking a wrong decision. But what the hell, I mean you have to take risks in life.

ē Were there moments when you thought is this worth it?

When I was younger...there were definitely moments.

ē Younger means what... when you were six?

When I was 13 or 14, when I wasnít winning so much, but everyone was saying you are good, you are going to start winning. And I was like, when am I going to start winning. Suddenly, everything just clicked. Now, I am so passionate about the game that even if you ask me to stop, I donít think I can stop playing.

ē So whatís the target now? You have done your top 100 much ahead of target, isnít it? You have saved yourself six months.

No, I have saved myself 10 months, I said by the end of 2005 I would like to be in the top 100. I am testing myself by saying I want to be top 50 by the end of the year. Letís hope I can do it. Letís hope it comes before time as well.

ē Itís one thing to get from 150 to 99, or top 100. Itís quite another to get to top 50. How much of a leap do you think that is? How difficult is it?

See, in terms of points, I need about 300 more points to get into top 50. Just by these two tournaments, I think I have got about more than 150 points. If I have a couple of more tournaments like these, anything can happen. But it could also happen that I have a bad phase and I donít play like this. But itís okay, I am not going to be disappointed. Of course, I am going to be a little upset, but I guess thatís just a part of it.

ē When you see see the women in the top 50 today, do a lot of them look beatable?

Definitely. Actually last year, I played Nicole Pratt and the year before I played Amely too. She is around 45, Nicole is around 51. I played three sets against both of them. My fitness level wasnít as high as it is now, my serve wasnít as strong as it is now. So I guess I can match quite a bit...

ē But your return of serve was always a killer.

My return of serve, yes, it is one of the strongest points of my game.

ē We have seen you turn around your game from difficult situations, match points, deuces....

My return of serve definitely is one of the strongest points in my game, and I am very confident. I think it is just because of my timing...that I have the timing.

ē In fact, when you were playing in Australia, one of the commentators said that we have seen in Saniaís game the same element of touch and timing that is the hallmark of Indian tennis. He said we saw this in Amritraj. This is very true of Indian cricketers as well, particularly the Hyderabadi cricketers ó Azhar, Laxman, the touch, timing...

Yes, but I am not much of a touch player. I am a very offensive player. I donít like drop shots and chip-and-charge, you know. I am more of the hitting kind, the winning kind.

ē But you have got timing.

I have got timing and I think that is why I hit the ball harder than some of the boys do. Because I have the timing, though I donít look muscular or anything. I hit the ball as hard as perhaps some of the men do.

ē What was the thought in your mind when you were up against Serena? Watching you on TV, one could see some sense of amusement. It was like you were enjoying it too much.

Well initially, yes, I was enjoying it, no doubt about that. I was very happy to be playing against Serena, so excited that I was playing Serena Williams... I could not believe that three nights back, I was sleeping in my bed and seeing my draw and thinking that I might play Serena in the third round, and today I am playing her. So, it was an amazing feeling. And I was tense because I was thinking so much about the match. I was tense, when I am never tense during my matches. As everyone could see, in the first sets, I had a few unlucky points, some net calls that came over to my side instead of going that way, and that made the difference.

ē You know, your father complained to me that you are not somehow focussed, not so intense in the first set. Then he said that if she loses one, then she is like a wounded tigress.

Well, I think the first set... It was just that I was playing a big tournament, a big round, a big player, a massive player, if you can say that... So I knew I had to go out there and just have fun and enjoy. But then I was just thinking so much about playing Serena in front of such a big crowd, and so many people cheering for both of us... I was obviously the underdog there. Playing the second set, I think I matched her in the second set, and she obviously was getting under pressure.

ē Let me move beyond top 50. What is your ambition?


My ambition, to be honest, is to be in the top 25. Because I believe in being realistic. Maybe if I get into the top 25 in the next two years, maybe then I would say that I want to get into the top 10.

ē The last Indian to get somewhere up there was Vijay Amritraj.

Yes, so right now, I want to be in the top 25, maybe in about two to two-and-half years from now.

ē Thatís a good time frame. How long do you see yourself playing?

It really depends on my body, you know, because we are ending up in so many injuries.

ē Itís a very high-stress game now.

Definitely. And it is so physical. You need that 110 per cent every time you walk in the court. It is tough to do that. I have been doing it for 13 years now, and I already feel it. But you keep doing it till as long as you can... Till I am enjoying the game. I think thatís what matters.

ē But tennis is a very young peopleís game now. Itís one thing for us to say that Sania Mirza, at 18, carrying hopes of an entire country... But 18 is a pretty mature age for womenís tennis, isnít it?

Yes it is. I know people are retiring at 22-23, they are ending up in so many injuries. Martina Hingis did. So many people... Henin underwent injury. I was just reading in the papers today that she came back after about a year and won her match. So people are ending up in so many injuries... So anything can happen, I could play till 29, I could stop at 22.

ē But you see in the top 25-top 50, women of your age group, some even younger.

Definitely. But I guess itís just the way theyíve been trained all these years. You know, the number of coaches they have had, the best coaches in the world, the best training partners. They are at a certain advantage with their height and physical fitness too ó they are 6 feet tall, I am five seven-and-half. But over here, I look like some giant. Then when I go abroad...

ē You talked a lot about your foreign competition having had the benefit of scientific coaching, foreign coaches, very controlled environment. Do you regret not having had some of that?

Well, I donít need to regret it, because Iím still 99 in the world. But maybe some people should think that I do have a disadvantage. Because people tell me you are 18 and still 99. But they donít understand the amount of hard work thatís gone in being an Indian tennis player. You donít have proper courts...

ē You are far too spunky and far too talented to be satisfied with being in the 90s or 80s. You are aiming higher. For that, do you think itís necessary to go to a regulated foreign coaching environment?

I did go to Brett last year for a few weeks. Because of my ankles, I am just going to maybe try and play a few tournaments, see how I feel. After that, we will see how it goes.

ē So you might consider shifting and training for longer periods?

It really depends. I donít know. Training for longer periods, maybe, but I donít know if I want to shift my base.

ē Why, is it tough to stay away from home?

Yes, it is. Tough to stay away from biryani. I hope Azhar isnít watching.

ē Azhar will watch. If he doesnít we will let him know because all of us have a stake in your not eating too much biryani now.

I am not.

ē Thatís the other thing Sania, you are carrying so much hope and expectation you know. You saw the crowds you had, and now you know that you are a star. You canít hide from the fact. How much more pressure does it bring on you?

It definitely brings a lot of pressure on me. People are always expecting much more from me than what I actually can do, I feel. And till now, I donít know how I have always lived up to a lot of expectations, maybe not to all of the peopleís but to a lot of expectations. So, I am very happy at the way I have come through in my career till now. But the pressure is always going to be there, I guess. Itís just a part of it...

ē Do you ever exchange notes with other people who have handled the pressure? You have met Rahul Dravid. Recently, of course, you met Azhar. Have you met Sachin?

I have met Sachin, but we never had this kind of talk. It was just very general talk you know, not exactly about how to handle pressure or stuff like that. But I would love to do that.

ē But if you met him on a flight, or had lunch with him, what are the three questions you would ask him?

How do you hit like that ó I feel heís got amazing timing to hit those sixes. I would like to ask him how do you do that when you are so small?

ē Whatís the second question?

How does he handle so many expectations the way he has been over these years? Then how does he cope up with these injuries?

ē All right. Injuries, the power, and the pressure. What about the adulation and the money?

I donít think Sachin needs any more money.

ē Letís not get into the question of who needs what. All those kids who are watching, I think, also figure how much money you are going to make in the times to come.

Well, you know...

ē Why donít you ask him how to manage your money?

First thing is, I donít really care about money. Even today, I donít exactly manage my money. My parents do everything. I donít even know how much the tickets cost. So I am not really a money-minded person. I am playing tennis right now for the passion, and because I love the game so much.

ē Thatís the question I want to ask you. When you go out to play, where does the passion come from? Does it come form hating the opponent, wanting to beat her, or does it come from being wrapped in the Tricolour and playing for the nation? Is it money, is it glory, what is it?

It comes a little from everything, I guess. Yes, it does come from playing for India, having the Indian flag behind you, people saying Sania Mirza from India. It feels very proud to be an Indian.

Secondly, I think it comes from ĎI want to hit her with that ball in her stomachí. I think it comes from that too, I think thatís one of the reasons I hit every ball so hard. I donít know if money really drives me. It doesnít really motivate me.


ē I have talked to people like Vijay Amritraj, Leander. You can see they always performed much better when they were playing for the flag, as against the logo. You know, their Davis Cup performances were much better. How does it work for you, playing for India vs playing for yourself?

I give my 200 per cent everytime I walk on court. And even when I am not playing a team event, I am still playing for India, I am still playing for my country. Even though it is an individual sport, I am still playing for the nation.


ē But will you play for the Fed Cup?

Definitely, it is great to watch all these people with Indian flags and banners saying ĎCome on Indiaí.


ē Is there a difference between Advantage Sania and Advantage India?

There definitely is. I think Advantage India sounds better.


ē And you are very conscious of your Indian identity.

Yes, I am.


ē Itís not just the nose-ring, which, I think, will become a huge fashion statement.

I donít know. I have had this a long time now. But yes, I am very conscious of my Indian identity. I am very proud to be an Indian.


ē Were they surprised on the circuit when they first saw you ó an Indian woman, a young Indian woman?

In the beginning, yes. They probably thought it was a fluke. But when they kept seeing me more on the circuit, it got into their heads that, you know...


ē Especially at Wimbledon, I believe they didnít even have the Indian flag.

They didnít and they were like, sorry we have not had an Indian girl come and play here. Thatís why Wimbledon was so special for me. Because two years later, I went there and won the tournament.


ē So tell me about the incident. I believe they got the wrong flag.

They got the wrong flag and my father just went up to them and said you know youíve got it wrong.


ē And you got furious.

Yes, because they should respect peopleís flags, and they should respect whichever country they come from, whether it is a tennis-playing country or a non tennis-playing country. I was very furious. Two years later, when I won it... I am sure they are not going to forget the Indian flag for a long time now.


ē Thatís the Indian identity. Are you also conscious of your cultural, religious identity? I know you are religious, you pray...

Yes I am. I pray five times a day. I am very conscious about the pillars of Islam. I know my Indian culture, I know what my background says. You know, I do advertisements and stuff like that but if you ask me to pose in a bikini I am not going to do that. My religion doesnít permit it, nor do a lot of other things.


ē You are a religious family but not conservative.

We are conservative too, but to some extent. I mean, maybe the dresses I wear are not exactly right, but I guess Islam does have forgiveness. I donít know if I am doing anything wrong... I am sure God will forgive me.

ē I think any God will forgive you. And any God will forgive anyone who is in competitive sports, but most of all a person like you. Keep getting better and better Sania, we are all with you and may God be with you.


Thanks.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2005, 04:08 AM   #78
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Old Mar 3rd, 2005, 08:33 AM   #79
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thelma
http://newpaper.asia1.com.sg/sports/...,83986,00.html

DOWN 0-4, 30-40, and injured
Mirza rallies to beat US Open champion
WHAT a player? What a comeback?



Sania Mirza, the new Asian heart-throb on the world women's tennis scene, produced a remarkable recovery from a huge deficit and injury to beat the US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.

The 18-year-old Indian needed a 10-minute time-out for attention to an ankle injury after an early fall and was then 0-4 and 30-40 down before bouncing back to a startling straight-set victory over the Russian.

The 6-4, 6-2 triumph, which was cheered by thousands of Indian expatriates who made it like a home match for Mirza, carried the Hyderabad teenager into the third round of the Dubai Open as a wild card.

It followed her achievement in January in reaching the third round of the Australian Open as a wild card. Eventually she lost to former world No. 1 Serena Williams.

Subsequently she won the Hyderbad Open.

What made it all the more extraordinary was that once Mirza started to move better and strike the ball more fluently, she frequently outhit one of the heaviest hitters in the game, especially with her flat forehand drive.

There seemed no chance of anything like that happening when Mirza was within a point of a 0-5 deficit, and she admitted she had had no hopes of winning at that stage.

She said: 'My ankle was killing me. It was the third time in three weeks (it happened) and I was crying because I was in so much pain. I was disturbed because always my ankles are getting injured.

'But I got it re-taped and took a pain-killer, and that started to work after about 15 minutes. I don't know quite how I did it because I couldn't move that well.

'I was scrambling to the ball but I think I made hardly any errors from 0-4 down. I tried to get winners really fast because I thought I might not be able to move.

'I think from about 4-3 she started to get upset. I knew she was getting tense and that was why I wanted to put more pressure on her which I succeeded in doing. The crowd inspired me.'

Mirza took seven games in a row before Kuznetsova regained some semblance of rhythm, but although she was trying to hang in hard at 2-3 down in the second set she seemed too unsettled by the barrage of flat fast winners and the noise to regain control.

'I started well and she was nervous, but I didn't do anything to make her play like that,' said a puzzled Kuznetsova afterwards.

'She had nothing to lose and she played great, but I attacked hardly at all and didn't make her move. But this is the game - this is what happens,' the world No. 7 added.

Mirza next plays either Silvia Farina Elia of Italy or Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, both unseeded players. If Mirza wins again she will be in the semi-finals - little more than two weeks after winning her first WTA Tour title in her home city of Hyderabad. - AFP

_______________________

http://www.wtatour.com/newsroom/stor...le_6226_rx.asp

March 2, 2005

© Charles Crowell
Mirza Goes Back To School In Dubai

DUBAI, U.A.E. - Sania Mirza caused a frenzy of excitement at Dubai's Indian High School Wednesday when she made a brief appearance in front of hundreds of star-struck students.



Mirza, who defeated reigning US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Dubai Duty Free Women's Open Tuesday night, visited the school to meet the students and congratulate 12-year-old Shivangi Gandhi, who won the Dubai Tennis Championships colouring-in competition.

Shivangi greeted Sania with flowers upon her arrival before taking the Indian icon through to a packed assembly room where she spoke of the fame that has suddenly engulfed her following impressive performances earlier this year.

"I was thrilled to meet her," said Shivangi, who was presented with a signed photograph of Mirza. "She was amazing."

Mirza burst upon the tennis world by becoming the first Indian woman to reach the third round of a Grand Slam, before falling 61 64 to eventual Australian Open champion Serena Williams, who is also competing in the Dubai Duty Free Women' Open for the first time.

Two weeks later Mirza made history again, winning the final of the Hyderabad Open in front of Congressional President Sonia Gandhi to become the first Indian woman to win a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title.

Mirza caused plenty of interest when she won in the city of her birth, Hyderabad, and that attention has followed her to Dubai where the large expat population has welcomed the opportunity to see the young sensation themselves. They filled the 5000-seat stadium last night, generating almost as much attention as Andre Agassi last week.

And with plenty of enthusiasm and a down-to-earth approach, the 18-year-old, who was accompanied by her mother Naseema today, spoke to the students about the sacrifices that are needed to succeed and offered plenty of practical advice to the wide eyed youngsters.

"Whatever it is you do, whether it is studying, working, or playing sport, you have to be focused and determined but most of all the fun should be a part of everything it is you do," Mirza told them.

The students also had the chance to ask their heroine some questions, with Mirza openly talking about her hobbies, how she relaxes, what's important to her, how she balanced school and tennis, and how she started playing the game.

Her answers were often given enthusiastic applause, with the biggest response coming after her answer to what her motto is.

"It is nice to be important, but more important to be nice," Mirza said.

______________________________

http://www.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=42578

I am not going to pose in a bikini: Sania


Posted online: Wednesday, March 02, 2005 at 1416 hours IST
Updated: Thursday, March 03, 2005 at 0552 hours IST

ē She is perhaps the most loved teenager in this country since Sachin Tendulkar burst on the scene. Sania Mirza, welcome to Walk the Talk in your school, which you left last year.

It is an even greater pleasure to be here. Itís just so lovely to see my school uniform again.

ē But you donít have to study, no exams, no nothing...

Yeah thatís the better part of it. I donít have to write my exams, and I donít have to study. But I do have my exams coming up shortly in my BA Mass Communication so...

ē But more than that exam... You know, the next tournament.

I think those are tougher exams than what I actually gave last year over here, sitting in that hall downstairs. Getting up at six in the morning and playing week after week.

ē Whatís tougher: the Class XII student fighting for grades and percentages to get into college, or now ó getting up, exercise, gym, training...

Well, for me, I donít know... Itís right now...

ē The media?

Yes, thatís tough. But for me right now, itís tennis and itís really bad because I have to get up in the morning and... You know, every single day of my life, just practicing eight hours a day. I am sure it is the same thing for all the people trying to get 95 per cent in their boards also. So I guess itís wrong to compare these two things.

ē But 95 per cent, even 99 per cent in the boards, tells them you need to earn your living next year...

Yes, but I think for some people it is very important to get 95 per cent or 98 per cent. But when I gave my boards I just wanted to pass.

ē But you did fine.

Yes, got about 64, so it was okay.

ē Tell me, whatís your day like now?

Well, right now, I am on an off because my ankles are both injured. So I am just taking it easy, sleeping late, getting up late...

ē But usually, during your training time, whatís your day like?

Well, when I am training, I get up at six in the morning. I am at the courts by 7:15 am, warm up, practice till about 9:30-10 am. I come back, have breakfast, go to college, do whatever little work I have in college. Then by 2 pm, I have to come back. I am back at the tennis court at 2:30 pm, have lunch, maybe in the car or something. I come back at 6 pm, go to the gym, then return by 7:30 pm. I am dead by 7:30 pm, sometimes I may go for a massage after that, or I am just asleep by 10:30 pm.

ē Is there any difference in the way you train from the way your rivals train?

Well, I really donít know. Maybe some of them train less than what I do, some of them may train more than I do. So I really donít know how to compare that. But I know I am training hard, eight hours a day, 365 days a year. I donít think it is easy.

ē It is tough on the body as well.

Definitely. Thatís why we end up with so many injuries, I guess. Right now, both my ankles are injured and I have a little bit of thigh strain. So injuries are just a part of every athlete, whether tennis player or cricketer.

ē Thatís what happens to sportstars in this country. Sachin Tendulkar gets a bad elbow, the entire country gets a bad elbow.

I know. Everyday I read about my ankles more than I know about my ankles. Well, thatís the way India treats their stars, treats their idols.

ē And loads of advice, from homeopathy to acupressure...

Loads of advice, homeopathy to allopathy to physiotherapy...

ē So, who looks after your body and your fitness?

Over here, I train with a guy called Fayaaz, he is from EST ó thatís Azharuddinís gym here. My physiotherapist, well, the Indian cricket teamís, actually the Hyderabad cricket teamís is Mr Badrinath. Heís treating me right now, I did take a stint with Andrew Leipus too, but he is not here any more so...

ē I believe Azhar takes a lot of interest in your fitness...

Yes, he does. He is a great inspiration for me. I mean he is such a great athlete and...

ē He has been one of our fittest cricketers.

He probably is one of the fittest.

ē I have not seen someone his age with such a flat stomach.

Definitely, at 42-43... He gives me a complex. He is unbelievably fit, and whenever he is in town he tries to advise me.

ē Is there something that he complains about?

Yes, that I eat too much... Everytime I am with him, I have to tell him my whole diet for the past one week, which I hate doing. So I try to cut down when I am around him. I try not to eat so I donít have to lie to him.

ē So when one Hyderabadi questions another on what you eat and how much you eat, itís all about biryani isnít it?

Definitely, but I have cut down on my biryanis quite a lot.

ē Do you think that tennis involves a lot of self denial. You know, not just fitness and eating but also the kind of life you lead, the circuit?

I guess in any sport you have to give a lot of sacrifices, but tennis is never-ending. Definitely, it is one of the toughest sports I have seen.

ē Cricket has a season...

Yes, in tennis, you are playing all year round. And you are missing out on your normal life I guess. But now it all seems worth it, you know, when you perform. I guess when you donít perform, thatís when it really hits you that maybe I am taking a wrong decision. But what the hell, I mean you have to take risks in life.

ē Were there moments when you thought is this worth it?

When I was younger...there were definitely moments.

ē Younger means what... when you were six?

When I was 13 or 14, when I wasnít winning so much, but everyone was saying you are good, you are going to start winning. And I was like, when am I going to start winning. Suddenly, everything just clicked. Now, I am so passionate about the game that even if you ask me to stop, I donít think I can stop playing.

ē So whatís the target now? You have done your top 100 much ahead of target, isnít it? You have saved yourself six months.

No, I have saved myself 10 months, I said by the end of 2005 I would like to be in the top 100. I am testing myself by saying I want to be top 50 by the end of the year. Letís hope I can do it. Letís hope it comes before time as well.

ē Itís one thing to get from 150 to 99, or top 100. Itís quite another to get to top 50. How much of a leap do you think that is? How difficult is it?

See, in terms of points, I need about 300 more points to get into top 50. Just by these two tournaments, I think I have got about more than 150 points. If I have a couple of more tournaments like these, anything can happen. But it could also happen that I have a bad phase and I donít play like this. But itís okay, I am not going to be disappointed. Of course, I am going to be a little upset, but I guess thatís just a part of it.

ē When you see see the women in the top 50 today, do a lot of them look beatable?

Definitely. Actually last year, I played Nicole Pratt and the year before I played Amely too. She is around 45, Nicole is around 51. I played three sets against both of them. My fitness level wasnít as high as it is now, my serve wasnít as strong as it is now. So I guess I can match quite a bit...

ē But your return of serve was always a killer.

My return of serve, yes, it is one of the strongest points of my game.

ē We have seen you turn around your game from difficult situations, match points, deuces....

My return of serve definitely is one of the strongest points in my game, and I am very confident. I think it is just because of my timing...that I have the timing.

ē In fact, when you were playing in Australia, one of the commentators said that we have seen in Saniaís game the same element of touch and timing that is the hallmark of Indian tennis. He said we saw this in Amritraj. This is very true of Indian cricketers as well, particularly the Hyderabadi cricketers ó Azhar, Laxman, the touch, timing...

Yes, but I am not much of a touch player. I am a very offensive player. I donít like drop shots and chip-and-charge, you know. I am more of the hitting kind, the winning kind.

ē But you have got timing.

I have got timing and I think that is why I hit the ball harder than some of the boys do. Because I have the timing, though I donít look muscular or anything. I hit the ball as hard as perhaps some of the men do.

ē What was the thought in your mind when you were up against Serena? Watching you on TV, one could see some sense of amusement. It was like you were enjoying it too much.

Well initially, yes, I was enjoying it, no doubt about that. I was very happy to be playing against Serena, so excited that I was playing Serena Williams... I could not believe that three nights back, I was sleeping in my bed and seeing my draw and thinking that I might play Serena in the third round, and today I am playing her. So, it was an amazing feeling. And I was tense because I was thinking so much about the match. I was tense, when I am never tense during my matches. As everyone could see, in the first sets, I had a few unlucky points, some net calls that came over to my side instead of going that way, and that made the difference.

ē You know, your father complained to me that you are not somehow focussed, not so intense in the first set. Then he said that if she loses one, then she is like a wounded tigress.

Well, I think the first set... It was just that I was playing a big tournament, a big round, a big player, a massive player, if you can say that... So I knew I had to go out there and just have fun and enjoy. But then I was just thinking so much about playing Serena in front of such a big crowd, and so many people cheering for both of us... I was obviously the underdog there. Playing the second set, I think I matched her in the second set, and she obviously was getting under pressure.

ē Let me move beyond top 50. What is your ambition?


My ambition, to be honest, is to be in the top 25. Because I believe in being realistic. Maybe if I get into the top 25 in the next two years, maybe then I would say that I want to get into the top 10.

ē The last Indian to get somewhere up there was Vijay Amritraj.

Yes, so right now, I want to be in the top 25, maybe in about two to two-and-half years from now.

ē Thatís a good time frame. How long do you see yourself playing?

It really depends on my body, you know, because we are ending up in so many injuries.

ē Itís a very high-stress game now.

Definitely. And it is so physical. You need that 110 per cent every time you walk in the court. It is tough to do that. I have been doing it for 13 years now, and I already feel it. But you keep doing it till as long as you can... Till I am enjoying the game. I think thatís what matters.

ē But tennis is a very young peopleís game now. Itís one thing for us to say that Sania Mirza, at 18, carrying hopes of an entire country... But 18 is a pretty mature age for womenís tennis, isnít it?

Yes it is. I know people are retiring at 22-23, they are ending up in so many injuries. Martina Hingis did. So many people... Henin underwent injury. I was just reading in the papers today that she came back after about a year and won her match. So people are ending up in so many injuries... So anything can happen, I could play till 29, I could stop at 22.

ē But you see in the top 25-top 50, women of your age group, some even younger.

Definitely. But I guess itís just the way theyíve been trained all these years. You know, the number of coaches they have had, the best coaches in the world, the best training partners. They are at a certain advantage with their height and physical fitness too ó they are 6 feet tall, I am five seven-and-half. But over here, I look like some giant. Then when I go abroad...

ē You talked a lot about your foreign competition having had the benefit of scientific coaching, foreign coaches, very controlled environment. Do you regret not having had some of that?

Well, I donít need to regret it, because Iím still 99 in the world. But maybe some people should think that I do have a disadvantage. Because people tell me you are 18 and still 99. But they donít understand the amount of hard work thatís gone in being an Indian tennis player. You donít have proper courts...

ē You are far too spunky and far too talented to be satisfied with being in the 90s or 80s. You are aiming higher. For that, do you think itís necessary to go to a regulated foreign coaching environment?

I did go to Brett last year for a few weeks. Because of my ankles, I am just going to maybe try and play a few tournaments, see how I feel. After that, we will see how it goes.

ē So you might consider shifting and training for longer periods?

It really depends. I donít know. Training for longer periods, maybe, but I donít know if I want to shift my base.

ē Why, is it tough to stay away from home?

Yes, it is. Tough to stay away from biryani. I hope Azhar isnít watching.

ē Azhar will watch. If he doesnít we will let him know because all of us have a stake in your not eating too much biryani now.

I am not.

ē Thatís the other thing Sania, you are carrying so much hope and expectation you know. You saw the crowds you had, and now you know that you are a star. You canít hide from the fact. How much more pressure does it bring on you?

It definitely brings a lot of pressure on me. People are always expecting much more from me than what I actually can do, I feel. And till now, I donít know how I have always lived up to a lot of expectations, maybe not to all of the peopleís but to a lot of expectations. So, I am very happy at the way I have come through in my career till now. But the pressure is always going to be there, I guess. Itís just a part of it...

ē Do you ever exchange notes with other people who have handled the pressure? You have met Rahul Dravid. Recently, of course, you met Azhar. Have you met Sachin?

I have met Sachin, but we never had this kind of talk. It was just very general talk you know, not exactly about how to handle pressure or stuff like that. But I would love to do that.

ē But if you met him on a flight, or had lunch with him, what are the three questions you would ask him?

How do you hit like that ó I feel heís got amazing timing to hit those sixes. I would like to ask him how do you do that when you are so small?

ē Whatís the second question?

How does he handle so many expectations the way he has been over these years? Then how does he cope up with these injuries?

ē All right. Injuries, the power, and the pressure. What about the adulation and the money?

I donít think Sachin needs any more money.

ē Letís not get into the question of who needs what. All those kids who are watching, I think, also figure how much money you are going to make in the times to come.

Well, you know...

ē Why donít you ask him how to manage your money?

First thing is, I donít really care about money. Even today, I donít exactly manage my money. My parents do everything. I donít even know how much the tickets cost. So I am not really a money-minded person. I am playing tennis right now for the passion, and because I love the game so much.

ē Thatís the question I want to ask you. When you go out to play, where does the passion come from? Does it come form hating the opponent, wanting to beat her, or does it come from being wrapped in the Tricolour and playing for the nation? Is it money, is it glory, what is it?

It comes a little from everything, I guess. Yes, it does come from playing for India, having the Indian flag behind you, people saying Sania Mirza from India. It feels very proud to be an Indian.

Secondly, I think it comes from ĎI want to hit her with that ball in her stomachí. I think it comes from that too, I think thatís one of the reasons I hit every ball so hard. I donít know if money really drives me. It doesnít really motivate me.


ē I have talked to people like Vijay Amritraj, Leander. You can see they always performed much better when they were playing for the flag, as against the logo. You know, their Davis Cup performances were much better. How does it work for you, playing for India vs playing for yourself?

I give my 200 per cent everytime I walk on court. And even when I am not playing a team event, I am still playing for India, I am still playing for my country. Even though it is an individual sport, I am still playing for the nation.


ē But will you play for the Fed Cup?

Definitely, it is great to watch all these people with Indian flags and banners saying ĎCome on Indiaí.


ē Is there a difference between Advantage Sania and Advantage India?

There definitely is. I think Advantage India sounds better.


ē And you are very conscious of your Indian identity.

Yes, I am.


ē Itís not just the nose-ring, which, I think, will become a huge fashion statement.

I donít know. I have had this a long time now. But yes, I am very conscious of my Indian identity. I am very proud to be an Indian.


ē Were they surprised on the circuit when they first saw you ó an Indian woman, a young Indian woman?

In the beginning, yes. They probably thought it was a fluke. But when they kept seeing me more on the circuit, it got into their heads that, you know...


ē Especially at Wimbledon, I believe they didnít even have the Indian flag.

They didnít and they were like, sorry we have not had an Indian girl come and play here. Thatís why Wimbledon was so special for me. Because two years later, I went there and won the tournament.


ē So tell me about the incident. I believe they got the wrong flag.

They got the wrong flag and my father just went up to them and said you know youíve got it wrong.


ē And you got furious.

Yes, because they should respect peopleís flags, and they should respect whichever country they come from, whether it is a tennis-playing country or a non tennis-playing country. I was very furious. Two years later, when I won it... I am sure they are not going to forget the Indian flag for a long time now.


ē Thatís the Indian identity. Are you also conscious of your cultural, religious identity? I know you are religious, you pray...

Yes I am. I pray five times a day. I am very conscious about the pillars of Islam. I know my Indian culture, I know what my background says. You know, I do advertisements and stuff like that but if you ask me to pose in a bikini I am not going to do that. My religion doesnít permit it, nor do a lot of other things.


ē You are a religious family but not conservative.

We are conservative too, but to some extent. I mean, maybe the dresses I wear are not exactly right, but I guess Islam does have forgiveness. I donít know if I am doing anything wrong... I am sure God will forgive me.

ē I think any God will forgive you. And any God will forgive anyone who is in competitive sports, but most of all a person like you. Keep getting better and better Sania, we are all with you and may God be with you.


Thanks.
good morning,thelma!!great interview,thanx a lot!!
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Old Mar 3rd, 2005, 12:19 PM   #80
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jklense is just really nice jklense is just really nice jklense is just really nice jklense is just really nice jklense is just really nice jklense is just really nice jklense is just really nice jklense is just really nice jklense is just really nice jklense is just really nice jklense is just really nice
Hi all!
How does one pronounce her name corect?
Thx in advance
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Old Mar 3rd, 2005, 02:31 PM   #81
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hi,how are you!!i think,its pronounced,like it is written...what do you think,how will she play against jelena???
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Old Mar 3rd, 2005, 03:05 PM   #82
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i've heard, at least, such variants:
SAH-nya, SAW-nya, S∆-nya (as in MAD), sah-nee-YA
so, i'm not sure

i'd bet on Sania vs Jelena. both have just defeated stronger players,
in Sanya's case the "class difference" was bigger.
hope she a) isn't too exhausted and b) doesn't give herself airs yet.
in any case, it'd be an interesting match, imho.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2005, 03:41 PM   #83
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jklense
i've heard, at least, such variants:
SAH-nya, SAW-nya, S∆-nya (as in MAD), sah-nee-YA
so, i'm not sure

i'd bet on Sania vs Jelena. both have just defeated stronger players,
in Sanya's case the "class difference" was bigger.
hope she a) isn't too exhausted and b) doesn't give herself airs yet.
in any case, it'd be an interesting match, imho.
yes,you are right,very important points!but since i saw her against serena at the AO,i am her biggest german fan (at least,i suppose that )!wow,wow,the games just a few minutes away!i am already as nervous a hell,right now!! c,mon sania!!
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Old Mar 3rd, 2005, 04:28 PM   #84
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at the last Sania's match in Dubai, we saw a funny pattern in the score:
1st set BSBBBSS(S), 2nd set SSBBBSB(S),
here, S is 'serve won', B is 'broken'
i.e. omitting the 2 "extra" games by Jelena, score advanced in mirror way.

Anyway, Sania showed very good result here, imho
wish her further success!

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Old Mar 3rd, 2005, 05:49 PM   #85
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Any idea if Sania will be playing in the Indian Wells? With her current rank of about 76 will she get an automatic entry in the Main Draw?
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Old Mar 4th, 2005, 05:08 PM   #86
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jeudi mars 3, 21h13

A dissapointed Sania Mirza, of India, reacts after missing a ball against serbian opponent Jelena Jancovic, during their quater-final match at the Dubai Open tennis Tournament in Dubai, UAE.



jeudi mars 3, 20h27

India's Sania Mirza returns the ball to unseeded Serbian Jelena Jankovic during their WTA Dubai Open quarter-final in the Gulf emirate 03 March 2005. Jankovic abruptly ended the run of the 18-year-old Indian in two sets 6-2, 6-2.
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Old Mar 8th, 2005, 12:43 PM   #87
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From Wtatour.com

March 08, 2005
Getting to Know...

Sania Mirza



After an impressive season in 2004, in which she collected numerous ITF Circuit titles and became the first Indian woman to win a WTA Tour title by winning the doubles at Hyderabad, Sania Mirza has made even more breakthroughs in 2005.

In January, she reached the third round at the Australian Open as a wildcard before losing to eventual champion Serena Williams, becoming the first Indian woman to make it that far at a Grand Slam. In February, she became the first Indian woman to win a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title by winning at Hyderabad in only her fifth career Tour main draw.



Finally, last week at Dubai, she achieved her biggest career match win when she defeated reigning US Open champion and world No.7 Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia.



WTATour.com caught up with Sania in Dubai.



Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born in Mumbai, and moved to Hyderabad soon after. When I was growing up, Hyderabad was a small relaxed town and not very sporty, but thanks to the previous chief minister of the state Andrapradesh, it's becoming more developed and more funds are going into sports.



What does your family do, and are they interested in tennis or sports in general?

I come from a very sporting family. My father Imran is a builder and was a very good cricketer but was unable to compete at the highest level due to the death of his parents before his 21st birthday. Had I been a boy, my father probably would have encouraged me to play cricket. My mother Naseema runs her own printing press. My younger sister Anan and I are very close, but unfortunately we don't get to spend enough time together.



How did you get started playing tennis, and what is your earliest memory?

I started playing tennis when I was six when my mother took me to the local tennis courts which were on the way to swimming during summer holidays. My mother took me to a coach, who initially refused to coach me because I was too small, but after a month, he called my parents to say he'd never seen a player that good at such a young age. During the summer holidays I would play 3-4 times a week, and I started playing my first local tournaments at age 7. My parents never put too much expectation on me.



What were your other childhood interests besides tennis?

I liked swimming, dancing and studying. I enjoyed studying languages (English and Indian) and history.



How was your early coaching, and how were you supported?

I have had about a dozen coaches so far. When I was 12, I won the national championships for Under 14 and Under 16, and I received my first sponsorship with adidas.



Who were your tennis idols when you were growing up?

I really idolized Steffi Graf. I have seen her at tournaments with Andre but I'm too shy to say anything to her.



What type of off-court training do you do?

Weights, agility, speed training and nutrition. This is managed by Faiyaz Kahn and another trainer at the Bob Brett academy in San Remo, Italy.



Prior to your great week in Dubai, what is the strongest memory in your tennis career?

I don't have one in particular but of course my Wimbledon junior doubles victory in 2003 was very important. It brought me overnight stardom in India. Just before that tournament, I was signed up by Mahesh Bhupathi's Management Company (Global Sport), and afterwards I was also given sponsorship by GBK (a power generating company), and Head Racquets.



What are you off-court interests?

Mainly swimming and watching television. I don't like to go out too much when I'm at home - I prefer my friends to visit her. My mobile phone is my life line, as I love to keep in touch with my friends.



What do you think you would do if you weren't playing tennis?

Probably studying. When I was younger, I wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer. I am also interested in interior decorating.
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Old Mar 8th, 2005, 12:52 PM   #88
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Old Mar 10th, 2005, 01:02 PM   #89
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Sania's second endorsement deal is with a South Indian Jeweller
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Old Mar 15th, 2005, 03:50 PM   #90
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Sania gets wild card for Nasdaq Open




HYDERABAD: Indiaís Sania Mirza and Indian born US player Neha Uberoi have been given wild card in the $3,115,000 tier-1 Nasdaq-100 Open Tennis Championship to be held at Miami, Florida from March 23 to April 3.
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