Wednesday, July 20, 2005

India's Mirza is full of surprises

By Neil Schmidt and Alex Blumer
Enquirer contributors
MASON - Big crowds are nothing new for Sania Mirza, wherever tennis takes her.

Mirza, 18, already a huge celebrity in her native India, delighted her many fans from the Cincinnati area Tuesday in a 6-4, 6-3 first-round upset of seventh-seeded Anna-Lena Groenefeld.

"I was watching the other matches and there were hardly any people watching, and then I come out here and there are so many people," said Mirza, who's ranked 70th in the world. "It was really great, to have all that support in a country that you don't belong to."

Mirza's victory drew a vocal and largely Indian crowd to the smaller Grandstand court.

One of her many fans in attendance was Salil Bradhan, 37, a native-born Indian who brought his wife and two children to see Mirza play.

"She's a role model for them," Mirza said of his two children. "This is the first time I've seen her play."

Mirza does have a local connection, as she's been shown around town by an uncle, who lives in Springfield.

"He refuses to feed me Indian food; he says I can get that at home," said Mirza. "We've had every cuisine possible except Indian. I'm really craving it now."

Mirza next plays Kristina Brandi in the second round Thursday.

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