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Sania Mirza Returns To The Court At The Japan Open

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> Sania Mirza Returns To The Court At The Japan Open
post Oct 3 2005, 07:13 PM
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After disappointing performances in her last two tournaments, India's teen tennis sensation Sania Mirza returns to the court at the Japan Open in Tokyo on Monday. Currently ranked 37 in the world, Sania lost in the first round at the Bali Open early last month and also went down in the second round match at the Sunfeast Open at Kolkata. However, those early defeats can be viewed as a blessing in disguise. They have given Sania a well deserved break after a hectic season during which she created history by catapulting into the fourth round at US Open. The 18-year-old will now be physically and mentally refreshed, ready to set the Ariake Tennis Forest Park ablaze.

Sania, seeded 8th at the tournament, will face a barrage of players much more experienced, and ranked higher than her on the WTA tour, in the singles event. Russian Vera Zvonareva, ranked 22 in the world, is the tournament top seed but not at all the clear favourite to win the title. Close on Zvonareva's heel would be Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic and Frenchwoman Tatiana Golovin, who are separated by just four places on the tour. The burden of local hopes will be on the vastly experienced shoulders of Ai Sugiyama (13 years on tour) and Shinobu Asagoe (8 years on tour). However, if the Indian plays to her potential there might just be a second career WTA title for the taking. Current world number one Maria Sharapova won the tournament last year, but won't return to defend her crown.

Sania's coach John Farrington isn't disappointed with her recent performances and believes she is gaining with each event. "No, I am not all disappointed over her losing early in the two tournaments," said Farrington. "She is improving with every tournament. I am happy with her performance," he added. The coach hoped Sania would achieve many milestones in her career. The 18-year-old from Hyderabad had reached fourth round at this year's US Open, the first Indian woman to achieve the feat.

Immediately after the Japan Open, Sania would leave for Bangkok, where she will participate in another WTA tournament. Sania's father Imran Mirza says that the long season is taking a toll on the Hyderabadi huntress. "She is fit but is very tired as she has been playing since January," he said. After the two tournaments, Sania will take a break before beginning the next season in January.

Imran, who played a key role in shaping the career of his daughter, said she skipped a WTA tournament in South Korea to take some rest after a hectic schedule. "But she can't skip more tournaments as her ranking will come down," he said. Coach Farrington will accompany Sania for both the Tokyo and Bangkok tourneys. According to Imran, Farrington was pleased with Sania's progress and was working to improve some grey areas like her serves. "He will work in the off season to improve her game in those areas," he said.

Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been struck by the Sania mania. He said he was happy with the progress of tennis in the country, especially with the "storm" that Sania was creating. "I am delighted that in recent years interest in tennis has increased among the youth of our country," Singh said. "I am sure the lovers of tennis are thrilled by the storm that the young lady Sania Mirza is creating all over the country. She is inspiring young girls to take to sport and to fight for their due place in the brave new world they must all enter," he added.

When not busy shooting forehands at opponents, Sania can be seen doing her bit for the underprivileged. Sania has signed as an ambassador of Save a Child's Heart Foundation (SACH) to raise funds for providing medical aid to children suffering from heart diseases. "I'm happy to be associated with SACH, the charitable organisation which helps cure poor children of heart diseases," Sania said. She also released 'SACH Band' which will be sold at Apollo Pharmacy centres across the country to raise funds. The proceeds of Sania-endorsed SACH bands will go to the treatment of the children and donors will receive personal letters from the tennis sensation.

Sania also used her free time to link up with a few more corporates. Hyundai picked the teen sensation to promote their Getz vehicle. The Korean giant's Indian arm has signed the tennis star to fire up the sales of its latest car Getz that is facing competition from Maruti Suzuki's Swift. Sania would be representing the company and the car for a period of 3 years in a deal, which is said to be worth around Rs. 1.5 crores. Not bad for an 18-year-old.

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