Monday, February 26, 2007

Crowd favourite Mirza advances in Doha

DOHA (AFP) - Indian heart-throb Sania Mirza stormed into the second round of the 1.34 million dollar Qatar Open with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Italian Romina Oprandi on Monday.
Backed by a strong crowd of expatriate Indians in Qatar, Mirza, who was trailing 3-0 in the second set, won six games in a row to complete her second victory over Oprandi this year after her triumph last month in Australia.

Both players carried niggling knee injuries and Mirza had to get on-court treatment for several minutes, but that didn't stop her from unleashing some sizzling shots that left the Italian rooted on the court on several occasions.

Mirza, who was the toast of the crowd during the Asian Games last December, had to come from behind in the first set too, storming from 3-1 down to take a 4-3 lead and holding serve to consolidate her position further.

After Oprandi won the next game, the Indian closed out the set with ease using her booming forehand to good effect.

The Qatar Tennis Federation acknoledged Mirza's tremendous crowd-pulling prowess, by opening the tournament with her match on centre court and the response from the public more than justified their decision.

"I am quite happy with the way I played although I made some mistakes on big points," Mirza said referring to some easy volleys she missed at the net.

"I am also quite happy with the way I was received by the Indians living here. it's always good to have some support."

Mirza said she will be trying to play the tournament in a relaxed manner after all the hype during the Asian Games.

"The Asiad was different because I was expected to win some medals, but that is not the case here. Here there are so many good players that I just want to go out there and do my best."

Meanwhile, two other Italians avoided Oprandi's fate by advancing into the second round. Francesca Schiavone, the eighth seed here, defeated Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova 6-2, 6-4, while Mara Santangelo ousted Germany's Sandra Kloesel 6-3, 7-6 (7/4).

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