Sania Mirza spent the first day of 2010 changing flights en route to Auckland, where she'll kick off the new year playing a $220,000 event, starting January 4.
The 23-year-old will play singles and doubles (with Virginia R Pascual) as build-up to the Australian Open. Next up is Hobart and then Melbourne, for the season's opening Grand Slam.
The Hyderabadi, who two weeks ago played Russian world No. 5 Elena Dementieva in an exhibition event in Kuala Lumpur - for her first taste of competition since October last - used her off-season well. She rested her troublesome right wrist and gave it medical attention and treatment.
"The exhibition in Kuala Lumpur was good match practice, it was a tight game," Sania said. "An exhibition is an exhibition, and you can only get that competitive because of the entertainment factor involved. Still, it was good to play Dementieva. I'm feeling fine, the wrist feels good and I'm looking forward to compete again."
Mixed doubles, played only at the Grand Slams on the professional Tour, gains a whole new significance with its inclusion in the 2012 Olympic Games. Sania, who won the Australian Open alongside Mahesh Bhupathi last year, will partner the Bangalorean this time round too at Melbourne.
"This is a great time for India to have mixed doubles introduced in the Olympics, given that we have Mahesh (Bhupathi), Leander (Paes) and Rohan (Bopanna), who is now working his way up the rankings. 2012, however, is still some distance away, and whoever I play with I think we'll be strong contenders for a medal. Hopefully we'll all be fit and ready. At the Australian Open, I'm playing with Mahesh, we just confirmed that. At the other Slams, I'm not really sure because ranking becomes a factor. At Melbourne, because we won the title last year, even if we don't make the cut, which is pretty tight in mixed doubles, we'll at least get a wildcard."
Sania, who'll play doubles with veteran Pascual this season, is increasingly focusing on her singles.
"I think for us Indians doubles comes naturally," Sania said. "When I'm on court for doubles, I always feel I belong there even without any preparation. I could play doubles even when I'm done with my singles, which maybe in another few years. Even now, I don't play a whole lot of doubles, but I still manage to maintain my ranking. This is the time I want to give for singles, that has been the goal right from the word go." http://saniam.blogspot.com