Monday, December 25, 2006

Fitness is Sania's mantra now

HYDERABAD: There has been an amazing transformation in Sania Mirza's fitness, after an eight-week training stint with South African trainer Heath Mathew. "I have become a physio now, and am trying to keep her body lose and flexible," said Mathew.

The best part is that Mathew will be travelling along with Sania till the 2007 Wimbledon. "She has got the right speed and the explosive power now. The focus now is on the upper body and adding muscle strength to make her a better player," he said.

The 20-year-old Sania hopes that these developments will let her realise her new target of breaking into the top 20 in the world next year.

"I am a lot fitter now and am getting to play more balls. I am not leaving any space on the court for my opponents to exploit," she said in an exclusive chat with The Hindu, before leaving for Australia to take part in the Hopman Cup.

Sania is delighted at the way she is getting points on her backhand now, which has been her weak link. "I am putting in a lot of effort to become a better all-round player," she said with a broad smile.

Inspired by Roger Federer, Sania is keen to script a new chapter next year.

"I have had an indifferent 2006 season. But then I helped guide India to its first-ever Hopman Cup appearance and also won two silver medals and a gold in the Doha Asian Games. Definitely, I had great doubles performances but an average year as far as singles is concerned," Sania said.

India is underdog

On the Hopman Cup, Sania said that India begins as the underdog but Rohan Bopanna could be the surprise packet. "No one knows about him. But he has one of the biggest serves in the world circuit. Who knows, if we can manage to win one singles, then the doubles can be a fifty-fifty opening for us," she said.

Sania's intense desire to be an exceptional player in 2007 is reflected by trainer Mathew's comments. "I am ecstatic about the way she is going ahead of the physical conditioning schedule. She is determined to get everything right on the court now. There is no scope for any flaws," he said.

Picking tournaments

Importantly, the Mirzas (father Imran and mother Naseema) and trainer Mathew have decided to be cautious in selecting tournaments. "We intend to plan it such a way that she peaks right before the Grand Slam events. We are aware of the high risks involved in playing too many events as she can be either too tired or suffer a burn out. We are keen to avoid over playing her in this crucial phase," said the South African trainer.

Another significant decision which Sania has taken is to partner with Czech player and World No. 19 Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain. "We just hope that everything goes according to plan and she has a much better year in 2007," said an optimistic Imran Mirza while watching his daughter train with former national player Narendranath.

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