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nkoth Sep 1st, 2004 04:41 AM

The Uberoi Sisters
I figured it was time we start a thread for the new American sister tandem on the scene... the Uberoi sisters Neha and Shikha!

Shikha has exploded this summer, winning a couple of futures tournaments along the way. Now she is on fire at the US Open:

[Q1] d. Ivana Abramovic (CRO, 177) 61 62
[Q2] d. (15) Anne Kremer (LUX, 121) 64 76(9)
[Q3] d. (29) Vilmarie Castellvi (PUR, 137) 64 62
[R1] d. Saori Obata (JPN, 56) 63 36 75

Wow. Her point total was 89 coming in to the Open, and has now doubled to 177. Her ranking was 275 at the start of the Open, and has now moved up to ~177 in the world as well. Amazing run for Shikha, and deserved.

As for Neha, she lost in the first round of qualies, but is in the doubles main draw with Shikha. Neha, of course, is the winner of the Luxilon Junior Tournament this past March, where she beat such names as Karatantcheva and Vaidisova.

Clearly the future is bright for these two! :)


nkoth Sep 1st, 2004 04:52 AM

Here's part of a good story in this week's India Abroad newspaper -- it's especially timely as Shikha will next meet Venus in the US Open:

The sisters are in demand as hitting partners, because they combine a certain laid-back irreverence off court with a focused seriousness on it, whether at practice or in match-play. It is an attitude that has made them friends - big-name friends such as the legendary Martina Navratilova, who emails them hints, suggestions, advice and encouragement and to whom they turn when they want someone who has been there, done that, to help them make sense of it all. And the Williams sisters, both of whom seek them out as hitting partners when the tour puts them in the same place, same time.

On tour, friendships are made in strange ways. "September 11, 2001, Shikha and I were flying home from a tournament in Atlanta when the terrorist attacks happened. Our plane had to land in Jacksonville. Venus Williams was on her way home after winning the US Open," Neha recalls.

"It was chaos at the airport. We were trying to find a way home. We saw Venus Williams waiting in line for a rental car. Venus had come and hit with us once before and she remembered us. I asked her if we could possibly get a ride home with her, since she lives 15 minutes away from us in Florida. The car rental service gave her a huge 20-passenger van -- the thought of the three of us in that huge vehicle had us laughing all the way home."

"We didn't really know her too well at that time, but she was very friendly, and was talking to us about India. Suddenly she mentioned that she loved Bhindi Masala. Shikha and I were so shocked that she knew that dish -- I mean, Americans usually say they like curry or kebabs or Samosas. So we called mom and asked her to make Bhindi Masala because Venus was coming home for dinner. Mom made a huge Indian meal, and Venus sat with us and ate it all -- it was amazing that on that day, in that way, we met one of our role models."

That meeting has blossomed into a friendship -- as much of one as is possible, the sisters say, when you are constantly on the road, traveling and playing at widely different levels. It has also led to a standing joke, with Venus' sister Serena nagging the Uberoi girls about when they were going to host her to a similar meal.

Great story, huh? Can't wait for Shikha vs. Venus!

Blair Sep 3rd, 2004 04:54 AM

Very coooool story...

Shikha lost to Venus unfortunately 5-7, 1-6.. but she is ADORABLE!! Waving to the crowd after, she was just so happy to be there... she'd pump her fist after EVERY pt she won.. she was just so excited, it was so nice to see a player just go out and have fun!

Bероника Sep 3rd, 2004 04:02 PM

I also fell under Shikha's charm last night.It's so nice watching a player who enjoys the game.That huge smile all the time! :D And her game also is very good.I think she deserves a place in the top 100 soon...I'll also cheer for her.

Here are some photos of yesterday's match I found:

What about her sister? Is she also that good? I assume she's younger since I read in a previous post she plays junior.

Bероника Sep 3rd, 2004 04:23 PM

nkoth Sep 3rd, 2004 04:25 PM


Originally Posted by veronika
What about her sister? Is she also that good? I assume she's younger since I read in a previous post she plays junior.

First off, big congrats to Shikha on her performance yesterday! I'm so proud of how she did on such a big stage for the first time. She should make the Top 100 in no time at all now.

As for Neha, believe it or not -- but she's considered an even better prospect than Shikha. She made the final of the Orange Bowl last year, losing to Nicole Vaidisova in the final. In March of this year, she got revenge by winning the Luxilon Invitational (the junior tournament played alongside the Nasdaq 100 in Miami), beating Vaidisova and Karantancheva along the way. She's been in a bit of a slump since then, but she's playing in the US Open juniors next week... we'll see how she does!


Bероника Sep 3rd, 2004 05:02 PM

Ok,thanks!!! ;)

Good luck to Neha in the juniors then!!!

Bероника Sep 3rd, 2004 07:23 PM

Shikha exits US Open in style

New Delhi, Sept 3. (UNI): Pitted against a player of Venus Williams' calibre, Bombay-born Shikha Uberoi came up with the performance of her life under the lights at the Arthur Ashe Stadium even though she went down 5-7, 1-6 in the women's singles at US Open.

Ranked 11, Venus Williams had a tough time out there against the Princeton University student Shikha Uberoi, who boasts of only limited junior tennis experience.

Shikha is also the cousin of Bollywood actor Vivek Oberoi.

Ranked 275 in the world, Shikha took a 4-1 lead in the first set against her much superior opponent but could not hold on to it.

Williams broke back to put it back on serve. In the 11th game, Shikha repeatedly hit her first serves into the net. Even though she recovered to force nine deuces, Williams won the service break and cruised the rest of the way, according to information received here.

After the match, Williams had words of praise for her young opponent.

"She's a great player. She just has to keep improving and working hard and enjoying it as much as she is right now", she said.

Shikha was also ecstatic after the match.

"Wow, I can definitely do this", she said adding "I think I can definitely win one of these big ones."

"I'm actually so sad it's over. I was just crying because this is like the biggest party I've been to in my whole life.

"...this is just incredible. I've never had anyone cheer for me that loud in my whole life", she said.

Incidentally Venus Williams met Shikha at the Jacksonville Airport on September 11, 2002, when both had flights ordered to the ground after the World Trade Center disaster. Since then, they are in touch by e-mail.

Earlier this year, All India Tennis Association AITA) had requested the International Tennis Federation (ITF)to allow Shikha represent India.

Bероника Sep 3rd, 2004 07:25 PM

Shikha rattles Venus, goes down fighting

Tanmaya Kumar Nanda in New York | September 03, 2004 10:44 IST

So near, yet so far. And yet, if spirit be the test of a game well played, Shikha Uberoi was a winner all the way.

Outseeded and outranked, Uberoi put on her bravest face and her best smile as she stepped out to the magnificent Arthur Ashe stadium in New York to face her friend and some time hitting partner, former US Open champion and World No. 1 Venus Williams and gave her the scare of her life. Never mind that she lost; the score read 5-7, 1-6, but the ovation she got from the crowd was enough to ensure her immediate star status.

Being only 21, which is old by pro tennis standards but fairly low on the human index, Uberoi appeared red-eyed and almost choking at her post-match conference where one of the first questions posed to her was "Where have you been, have you even played the junior circuit?'

And that perhaps tells the story of her grit more than anything. Ranked a measly 275, few would have given her a chance before the match; at the end of it, the crowd was wondering the same thing: who is this girl who came out of nowhere and rattled 11th-seed Williams enough for her to have to raise her game several notches.

Indeed, a few more first serves in and some more experience and the scoreline could have been tighter -- what the hell, the scoreline might have been different!

In the 11th game of the first set, tied at 5-5, Uberoi, serving, and Williams traded 9 deuces; a better first serve rate and Uberoi could have swung it. After all, she had already broken the formidable Williams in the fourth game already, racing to a 4-1 lead in the set before Williams decided to pull herself together to reel off the next three games.

But through the first set, it was anyone's game, as Uberoi traded groundstrokes with scant respect for the Williams' reputation, breaking her in the second game and then again in the fourth for a lead that had Indian fans in the stands holding their breath one moment and roaring it out the next.

Coming into this second round match, Uberoi had already played four qualifying matches and won her first round. There was some nervousness before the match, in no small part due to the setting - this is Center Court, the arena of champions - but as she put it "It wasn't as overwhelming as I thought it would be, it was the greatest party of my life, I've never had so many people cheering for me ever before in my life."

In the end, though, the devil is in the detail. And the statistics tell a story that Uberoi will do well to keep in mind. In the first set, Williams had a first serve percentage of 59, Uberoi had 50; in the second, Williams had 69, Uberoi only 48; Williams had two double faults each, Uberoi had 1 and 4; in the first, Williams had 75 percent first serve, winning points and 82 in the second, Uberoi had 56 and 50.

After that tense 11th game in the first set, also, the experience of being Venus Williams came to the fore as she eased into high gear, found her rhythm, giving Uberoi little space to maneuver.

Be that as it may, the scoreline is no indicator of the fight that Uberoi showed. And given that she often hit clean winners and forced Williams into errors, it was easy to forget this was first time in the US Open main draw (she only got into the qualifying rounds due to a wild card), her first time at Arthur Ashe, her first time at being the cynosure of thousands of pairs of eyes. But it was a first to be proud of.

As her coach Rick Macci put it: "What we saw out there today was the start of the career of Shikha Uberoi."

Bероника Sep 3rd, 2004 07:57 PM

Shikha Uberoi
Thursday, September 2, 2004

Transcribed Interview


Q. No nerves; you had a good time?

SHIKHA UBEROI: I had such a good time. I'm actually so sad it's over. I was just crying because this is like the biggest party I've ever been to in my whole life, you know. You sacrifice so much, and you miss out on a lot of fun things in life. But this is just incredible with the people. I've never had anyone cheer for me that loud in my whole life. I was like on the verge of laughter. I didn't know how to react to that. It was amazing.

Q. What did you two say to each other after the match?

SHIKHA UBEROI: I said congratulations and all the best for the next rounds. She said good luck in your next tournament.

Q. That 11th game of the first set, eight or nine deuces.

SHIKHA UBEROI: I didn't put a first serve in on the deuce court (laughter). I wanted a first serve so bad. I didn't get a first serve in. I guess I was a little tight. So, yeah, subconsciously I was a little bit nervous. It came out at that time. I guess from there I was missing a lot, wasn't really extending through on my groundstrokes like I should have. They were just kind of clearing the net by a couple of inches. I was almost hoping they would clear the net sometimes. You know, I did the best I could. I wish I had gotten just one first serve in there. It's okay, though.

Q. Do you think kind of what could have been?

SHIKHA UBEROI: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I know there's a next time, so...

Q. What secrets about Venus' game did Rick impart to you before this match?

SHIKHA UBEROI: There weren't really secrets. I mean, watching her, I mean, I just -- I've watched her forever. I mean, she's like my idol.

Q. Rick worked with her for a few years.

SHIKHA UBEROI: Rick worked with her in her younger years. I mean, I just kind of went for her forehand, going on my serves to her forehand, hitting a lot of groundstrokes to the forehand as well. I tried. I mean, I wish I could have hit a little through the court, deeper. I just wanted to play my game. I guess keep attacking the second serves like I do to everybody, get my big first serves in. Yeah, so there wasn't really secrets, just coming in.

Q. Where have you been? Did you play Juniors at all?

SHIKHA UBEROI: Yeah, I played under-14s in the nation. Actually, for three years I didn't play any tournaments, like hardly any tournaments. Then I went a year to college, then I got a little injured. So, yeah, for five years I was kind of out of the loop a little bit, I think. Yeah, I played the Juniors under-14s in Florida. I played like half a year under 16s. Then after leaving Saddle Brook Academy, I went to work with a private coach named Renzo Reyes (ph), for three years we basically drilled all day long, hitting and hitting. That's when we were like idolizing Venus and Serena, their power strokes and everything. We wanted to kind of move in the direction of the way tennis was going, into the power phase. So for three years we were just kind of working on that and then I went to a college for a year. Second semester of college I got injured, that's Princeton. Coming out of college, I got a little injured. I started the 10 Ks. Trying to find the right coach. Things like that.

Q. Did you play for Princeton?

SHIKHA UBEROI: I did, the fall semester. My sister actually played the whole year. Got injured in the spring, so not the Ivey season. Couldn't beat Penn.

Q. Did you live in New Jersey for a time?

SHIKHA UBEROI: Absolutely. I lived there for 12 years. Maybe like 9 or 10. I grew up -- I was born in Bombay, India. I think when I was a baby, we moved to Morristown, New Jersey. I don't remember that. Maybe when I was about three or four, we lived -- I grew up in Princeton all the way till I was 12.

Q. Can you talk about what it was like when you went through those doors onto Arthur Ashe Stadium. I know you practiced there.

SHIKHA UBEROI: I just thought it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. Yeah, it was truly gorgeous. It was so pretty. The lights, I love the way my racquet shines under the lights. Playing, you know, under the lights at my club and everything, I always thought like one day I'd play, you know, in Ashe with the lights so bright, the huge crowd. People were just coming in like throughout the match, and they were cheering so loud. Actually, it's so huge when you look up, but I guess -- I don't know, maybe I'm a people person. I felt so intimate with the people. I don't know. It didn't feel as like overwhelming as I thought it would have.

Q. If you didn't play Juniors, spent all those years drilling, how did you know you were good enough to one day play here?

SHIKHA UBEROI: I was playing a lot of practice matches. Then when we did play some tournaments, we were losing pretty badly, both of us. But I knew what we were trying to do, and I believed in my coach, I believed in my father, and I believed in my sister, all of us. You know, we were a team. And I think that belief and faith that this is going to happen at all costs, I had that much trust in my dad and the people around me that they will do the right thing for me and we will do it together correctly. I knew it would happen. I just knew.

Q. Most qualifiers who play a Williams sister in Arthur Ashe Stadium go about 0 and 1 in about 48 minutes.

SHIKHA UBEROI: Really (smiling)?

Q. What was different about you, do you think? How are you able to block it out? Obviously, you're absorbing the ambiance in Ashe. How do you block it out?

SHIKHA UBEROI: You know, we went to Saddle Brook Academy, Harry Hopman Tennis Academy, Andy Roddick was there as well, good friend of ours. I just ran into him at an SFX party. My dad spoke to him and said, Andy, you're exactly the same, the same kid from Saddle Brook. Andy said, yes. You know how Andy is so smart, quick-witted. He said, I'm exactly the same but everything else around me has changed. I was really thinking about that prior to the match, that I'm the same person, hitting the same ball, it's just a ball, it's Venus on the other side. She's a great player, whatever, she's going to bring the ball back. And all around me, you know, there's beautiful Arthur Ashe Stadium under the lights and everything. But as long as I could stay in the moment and just focus on me and me playing the way I know how to play, like I always do, it didn't -- I think that really worked. Kind of got the left brain out of there, analyzing and overwhelmed by the situation.

Q. Is this the first time you're playing here?

SHIKHA UBEROI: Yes, my first time.

Q. The second most important thing in your life right now, Hurricane Frances. What is happening with the house?

SHIKHA UBEROI: Hurricane Frances brought my mom and the twins home, I mean here to New York. They kind of had to flee. I think they had to take down the glass windows. I'm not sure because I've never really been in a hurricane. Charley missed us, so I was lucky. They boarded up the house right now. Caesar is a good friend of ours. He just left actually, Caesar.

Q. Only two weeks ago you find out you get a wildcard. You come here, win four matches, end up in a prime time stadium match with Venus. What can you say about the last two weeks of your life?

SHIKHA UBEROI: Oh, I'm so sad it's over, but I'm going to look at it like in the way that it's just beginning because I'll just start crying again. This was so amazing for me, just to be here and to play. First of all, I just thank the USTA for the wildcard. I mean, if I didn't have a wildcard, I wouldn't have gotten in. I just wanted to win my first round. Then my second round came along, and I was like, Okay, I think I can win this one. I've got to do this now, I've got to qually all the way. Then the fourth round, the first round in the main draw, I'm going to win my first round, I want to play Venus on Ashe. You know, Bill Mounford (ph), he works at player service, I'm always looking for a court to practice my serves, whatever. He said, I'll open up Ashe for you. I'm like, no. I really want to be in there, but I want to be in there when I get myself in there, when I need to be in there. So I got in there. I couldn't believe it was this year but I got in there.

Q. When are you playing next?

SHIKHA UBEROI: I'm not sure. Probably my sister back home, Rick's court in Pompano Beach. Probably some matches there, running side to side. I'm not really sure what my next tournament is.

Q. You have no tournament plans? Do you have to await a wildcard again?

SHIKHA UBEROI: No. I think I'm going to -- like the long jump, you just run, fly through the landing, is there anything, I think I just did one of those. I mean, I just landed now, fortunately. But it was great. I think I'm going to be, I don't know, 200. Maybe I'll play China. My dad does all that stuff. He'll let me know. Probably pack my suitcase and leave.

Q. This is a pretty big payday.

SHIKHA UBEROI: Oh, yeah, yeah.

Q. Have you thought about that at all? Biggest ever, obviously.

SHIKHA UBEROI: Not really. I haven't thought about the points and the money that much. I mean, like first round, my dad's like, wow, you get $3,000 already, if you just like lose or whatever. I'm like, wow, that's like two 10 Ks, like the two 10 Ks I won. The next round, he said something and I forgot. I haven't asked.

Q. It's about 20 grand. It was 14 after the first round. About $25,000.

SHIKHA UBEROI: Wow. I'm a rich lady (smiling).

Q. What family did you have here tonight?

SHIKHA UBEROI: Oh, my whole family except my older sister (name given, but inaudible). She had classes. She's studying law at Washington and Lee. She double-majored, Vasser College. She wants to be a lawyer. She's studying law. She told me she's in the middle of nowhere. By the time she gets to Roanoke and tries to get a flight over here, she'll have to come back for her 8:40 class tomorrow morning. She couldn't make it. So my whole family; my mom, my dad, my younger sister, and my twin sisters (names given, but inaudible), my coach. Then a whole bunch of friends. They're like family. In India, everyone's family, so all the Indian community came.

Q. What did you think of Venus as a player?

SHIKHA UBEROI: I think she's a great player. I respect her a lot. I respect her achievements. She has a big serve. She hit well. Have to work harder, try to beat her again.

Q. After playing her, that first set could have gone either way, do you feel like you're that much closer?

SHIKHA UBEROI: Yeah. Back to the question of most people lose 0 and 0, whatever it was. I felt I've put in the hours, I've put in the work, moved in the right direction. I've taken correct choices as far as how I want my game to look. I felt I had a big shot today. It was a big opportunity. I felt I could do it. Okay, I didn't. I made some mistakes, got a little tight, first serves in the net. But that's all right. Yeah, I thought I could have done it. I'm right there.

Q. How did you do on the team at Princeton?

SHIKHA UBEROI: I did okay. I played two. I played like maybe seven matches, I think maybe like I lost one or two in the fall season because the spring season I couldn't play.

Q. Who played one?

SHIKHA UBEROI: (Inaudible). She was one year older to me.

Q. How many years did you play at Princeton?


Q. Only one year?

SHIKHA UBEROI: I went early. I went without really graduating high school because in Ivy Leagues, you have a lot of these young geniuses, 14 years old, studying with Professor Nash, all this stuff. They don't really need to have a high school diploma to get into Princeton. Under that clause, I was like, "Oh," my older sister was applying to colleges. I thought, "Why don't I apply?" Go for a year, maybe two, play. Academics are so important to Asians, my family, being Indian. I felt like I was very small, I was very tiny physically. I wasn't very developed like most kids are. 15 years old, I was a shrimp. I thought I needed a little more time for my body and mind to develop, wanted to be a well-rounded person. I thought a year. I felt I was ready after a year.

Q. Were you being home-schooled?

SHIKHA UBEROI: No, I went to a normal school, called (inaudible) Prep School. I did a lot of my work at home, then I went whenever I could to school. I asked them, I said I got into Princeton. They're like, Whoa, that's good. Do you mind -- basically it's just an English four that senior year. Do you mind if I take English at Princeton University, that will more than compensate, door Ion will give you a high school diploma.

Q. Did you have to take the SATs?


Q. Dare we ask?

SHIKHA UBEROI: No. They weren't very good. I didn't do very well. I kind of just walked in and did them. I did really well all through high school, above 4.0. I can play tennis pretty well, so that helped a lot.

Q. Louise wanted you?

SHIKHA UBEROI: She's like, That's all right, don't worry about it. The rest of the team did well, too. It's okay, your tennis kind of compensates.

Q. Your parents seemed pretty adamant that you will go eventually back to school.

SHIKHA UBEROI: Absolutely. I think they're getting that from me, I'm going to go back.

Q. Back to Princeton?

SHIKHA UBEROI: Yes, back to Princeton.

Q. You might not be as well-known here as in India. There are three Indian media people here. Your win in the first round was the highest ranked player that an Indian lady has beaten. You've been getting very good publicity in India. Do you have any thoughts about your fans in India?

SHIKHA UBEROI: Oh, yeah. Big hello to them. Wow, yeah. As long as I can keep playing, inspiring girls to play tennis or other sports, do what they want to do with their lives, study, play tennis, field hockey, whatever it is that they want to do, yeah, cricket maybe, female team, you know. Yeah, that's just fabulous. In fact, after that win against the Japanese girl, a man came up to us, an Indian American, said, Wow, that's just great, an Indian won. I'm going to go home and tell my daughter that an Indian American won the first round at the US Open, and I know she's going to feel so proud to be an Indian. That's it. If for anything, I'd love to play tennis just for that reason.

Q. Could you talk about India and gender. There have been fewer women players out of India. Talk about that, Indian women doing an athletic endeavor like tennis.

SHIKHA UBEROI: I think my generation of youth, I think they're coming out a little bit more and more. You know, like my mom, Did you ever play sports? Badminton. Okay, that's kind of a sport, not really. Sorry. My dad played a lot of sports. I think my father -- on my father's side, my aunts did play sports, but they kind of almost covered it up. Like I was just playing that tournament. My aunt, she said she'd wear her full Indian dress, go to the track, put on shorts, kind of like Bend it like Beckham. You know how she changes, then she runs? Same things. She put on her shorts, run, win, take a trophy, put it in her bag and go home. Academics were really the priority for women. They still are. But we have girls coming up. They're working hard. They're able to go outside the country and train and get better opportunity there because we have some great marketing agencies like Global Sport, Mahesh Bhupathi has started that. They've really made a name for themselves, the men. I think they're so great to give women the opportunity as well to start coming out. Slowly they are.

nkoth Sep 3rd, 2004 09:44 PM

Thanks so much for the articles, and especially the post-match interview -- great stuff!


Bероника Sep 4th, 2004 04:34 PM

Isn't she one of the funniest players to hear on interviews? Very interesting young woman,in my oppinion.

OxNoj Sep 5th, 2004 12:44 AM

Shikha definitely went down fighting against Venus and best yet, had a terrific attitude and showed her winning personality. She's really put back some excitement into the women's game and with players like her up and coming, the future is bright.

CooCooCachoo Oct 14th, 2004 08:56 PM

Shikha & Neha :worship:

I saw Neha at Wimbledon against Ana Jerman and she was just captivating :) She's got a great charm :)

CooCooCachoo Oct 14th, 2004 08:58 PM

Thanks for the articles too.. They are very interesting :)

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