IT'S a fact that Sania Mirza's greatest test of the season is ahead - the clay season of the WTA Tour. While her doubles record reads an impressive 14-5 W/L, that includes being in two finals, and the recent title at Morocco, singles have been a nightmare.
If just two singles wins from eight matches is any proof of her struggle, the other interesting statistic is the fact that Sania has dropped out of the Top 50 two times during the clay season. The worrying factor is, however, the struggle she's had to regain her elite status.
While August 27, 2006 was the day when Saina dropped to 54 - a rank that took over five months to shirk off, Monday saw her drop out of the top fifty again after managing to stay put there for 111 days.
With an injury to her right knee to be blamed for the dip in her ranking over the past three months,today, on the eve of her first match at the Istanbul Open, she is ranked 52 and the question that lurks is how fast she would manage to get back among the elite.
Seeded No 8 at Istanbul, Sania has a tough opener against world No 66 Meghan Shaughnessy of the United States, who, compared to Sania has a decent record on all surfaces.
Their Round One meeting on the clay courts of Istanbul on Tuesday will be a first. At Roland Garros the American has a 8-8 W-L, which, together with Sania's injury tilts the balance in Meghan's favour.
Having earned considerable success at Istanbul last year by finishing runners-up in the doubles event with Australia's Alicia Molik, the recent Morocco WTA success would surely have boosted Sania's confidence.
Seeded top for the doubles event, Sania and partner Yung-Jan Chan (Chinese Taipei) run into Romanians Sorana Cirstea/ Agnes Szatmari.
At the moment, clay may be good for Sania's knees more than the hard courts, but one thing that she would have on her mind is to jerk the rust off, for only wins would help her back to where she was. Sania FILE Important Dates- August 8, 2005: Cracked Top-50 - reached No 48 October 10, 2005: Career-high No 31 August 27, 2006: Slipped out of Top 50 - from No 44 to 54 January 29, 2007: Cracked Top-50 again - reached No 48, Reached career-high in doubles No 23 May 21, 2007: slipped out of Top-50.