[ MONDAY, JULY 18, 2005 06:55:15 AM ]
BARCELONA: Indian tennis star Sania Mirza aims to crack the top 50 in the women's rankings by this year end. Indian fans are also hoping that a day will soon arrive when they'll see their favourite star challenge the top stars and aim for a top-10 finish soon.
Wishful thinking? Not according to former Spanish star and clay court specialist Emilio Sanchez, brother of former World No. 1 and triple French Open women's winner Aranxta Sanchez Vicario. But Emilio predicts a grind for Sania if she has to get into the top 10. "To reach there, she must develop on several areas starting with strengthening of her legs, improving her mobility, getting her strokeplay in order and improving her mental toughness," says Emilio.
Emilio is the man behind the rise of Russian star Svetlana Kuznetsova, the US Open champion, who was instrumental in Sania tasting fame and success after her loss to the Indian at the Dubai Open. She however, beat Sania at Wimbledon in a thrilling three-set battle.
Talking to TOI at the Open Sports Club, which houses the Tennis Academia Sanchez-Casal, Emilio spoke highly of the Indian tennis starlet, but emphasised she needed to address her problem soon.
Emilio also said the nation should not have too many expectations from Sania because that could "boomerang on her as the pressures of growing expectation weigh on a player and could burn her out early."
Kuznetsova, who is honing her skills at the academy here, also sounded impressed by Sania's performance. "Sania is talented and has the potential to rise. What she lacks is confidence, agility and experience. She has the wherewithal to go places,"said Kuznetsova, who is at the academy to improve her body balance and strokeplay, according to Emilio.
The Sanchez academy is one of a kind in Europe. It blends education with tennis and is used by some of the best players to hone their skills. The list includes names like Martina Navratilova and Elena Bovina -- the latest rising Russian star.