Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Sania hoping for a good New Year

Fresh from her medal winning performance at the recently-concluded Asian Games in Doha, tennis ace Sania Mirza on Wednesday said she hopes to erase the bad memories in 2006 with a good showing in the month-long tour of Australia.

"I will start on a fresh note in 2007. I want to forget the bad year in 2006 with a good show in Australia," said world no. 65 Sania, who is leaving for Perth to represent India in the mixed Hopman Cup main draw.

Asked about India's chances in the Hopman Cup, Sania said: "It's a very tough draw. We are entering the main draw as underdogs. Having the top pairs from around the world, it would be too much to expect a victory against them."

Sania, partnering Rohan Bopanna had won the Asia-Hopman Cup last month in Hyderabad and qualified for the main draw. The 20-year-old said her fitness levels had improved a lot since she started training with South African Heath Mathews.

"My fitness has improved with Heath Mathews, the South African trainer working with me for the past one and half months. I think my speed and strength are much better now," she said.

"The results showed in the Hyderabad leg of Hopman Cup and in Doha where I won a gold and two silvers. We are still working on the exercises for further improvement," Sania added.

Sania, who has more doubles victories than singles said, "That may be because of fitness problems. In singles I need to cover the entire court where as in doubles it's not like that. With the improvement in my fitness levels, I am more confident that I can do better in singles too in the coming days."

During the month long engagements in Australia, Sania will first stop at Perth for the Hopman Cup and move on to Hobert to play in Tier-4 Moorilla Hobert International tournament where she has to play in the qualifying event beginning on January 5 if she is not given a wild card entry.

Sania will be play the singles and doubles in the Australian Open beginning in Melbourne from January 15. In the doubles, she will partner Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain, who is ranked 27th in doubles.

"Interestingly, I will be fighting against Anabel in the Hopman Cup, where the Spaniard along with Tommy Robredo is seeded second and are in Group B, Czech Republic and Croatia are the other two teams," she said of her new partner.

"We have our first match against the third seeded Czech Republican pair of Lucie Safarova and Tomas Berdych on December 31, our next match will be against the Croatian pair of Sanja Ancic and Mario Ancic on January 3 and the final Group B match is against the Spanish pair of Anabel Medina Garrigues and Tommy Robredo on January 4," she said.

The Hyderabadi said she is undaunted by the tough competition at the top level in women's tennis.

"You know that pretty much before entering the arena. You have to live with it. Anybody from the top 50 can win on their day. You cannot take anyone lightly. The competition is severe since the last two years, with everyone playing with full fitness level," she said.

"My parents and friends are my first supporters. When I was in poor form and was also down mentally, they helped me to regain confidence and the mental strength. Unless you are mentally strong and healthy you cannot concentrate on the game," she said.

Summing up her career in 2006 Sania said: "There were lots of ups and downs, but in the end I was happy to regain my form and putting up a better show in the Hopman Cup and the Asian Games. I had a couple of good victories against top level players, including world no 8 Martina Hingis. I could not live up to expectations in the singles at the Sunfeast Open in Kolkata. But I think I satisfied the crowd by putting up a better performance in the doubles and winning the title in the company of South African Liezel Huber."

Sania said she has no specific ambitions for 2007, but would look to break into the top-20 of the singles ranking.

"That would ease the pressure on me. But again all our wishes may not be realised," she said.

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