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February - March 2006

India Sport Scene

Tennis: Sania Mirza

by Ramesh Seedhar

Quite an eventful year this has been for Sania Mirza. At the Australian Open, she caught the eye and the imagination of the Indian public as well as of the world with her explosive play. She was 134 in the world ranking when she entered the first grand slam event of 2005. This year she starts the Australian Open Championships as a seed. Australian Open Championships is the first grand slam tennis event of 2006 and starts on Monday 16th January.

In her preparation for this event Sania Mirza pulled off a set before going down fighting against the world number 17 Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia. This was in the first round of the Medibank International Open in Sydney. Sania, playing in her first WTA Tour match of the season, went down 6-4 2-6 6-2 to US Open mixed doubles champion..

The 19-year old girl from Hyderabad is currently ranked 34 in the world. Sania has marked her return to the courts with a high profile exhibition event in Hong Kong, after a back strain that had brought her 2005 season to an early end. The Hong Kong event featured three of the four reigning Grand Slam champions. Sania got to play two singles and as many doubles matches, pairing up with world number two Kim Clijsters. Sania failed to win a set in that event but felt she was still finding her match rhythm after a tough three-week workout with Tony Roche in Sydney during the winter break.

Sania Mirza will spearhead India’s Federation Cup campaign while Karan Rastogi replaces Harsh Mankad in the Davis Cup team for the upcoming tie against Korea. The selectors also named Sania and Shikha Uberoi for the Federation Cup. The Indian team will be playing in Zone 1 of the Asia-Oceania Group. Seoul, Korea is the venue for the matches being played in the week of April 17. India’s Davis Cup team is composed of Leander Paes (playing captain), Mahesh Bhupathi, Prakash Amritraj and Rohan Bopanna with Karan Rastogi as reserve. Sania Mirza and Shikha Uberoi will form the team with Rushmi Chakravarthy, Ankita Bhambri, Sanaa Bhambri, Isha Lakhani, Poonam Reddy and Parul Gosawami as as probables for the Federation Cup team:
Rohan Bopanna and Prakash Amritraj came back from the jaws of defeat to advance to the final of the ATP Tour Chennai Open tennis championship The Indian pair, who were given a wild card entry beat the highly experienced pair of Rainer Schuettler and Alexander Waske in the ‘super tie-break’ that went into extra points.

Bopanna and Amritraj won 6-1 3-6 11-9 in 64 minutes of hard battle.

It was reminiscent of the early days of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi as Bopanna and Amritraj emulated their senior Davis Cup mates, who shot into fame with their first of the four title triumphs in Chennai in 1997.

It was also evident that Bopanna and Amritraj have the wherewithal to move on to greater heights both on the pro circuit and in Davis Cup play.

With the new scoring system in doubles in force at this tournament, the Indian pair almost lost the match at one stage in the tiebreak. Trailing 5-9 with Waske serving, the Indians saved four match points and won six points in a row to stun the second seeded pair.

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