SANIA MIRZA

 

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Sania Loss Breaks A Milion Hearts

 

 

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5th March, 2005 : DUBAI : The stands were buzzing long before Sania Mirza took court. Over six thousands fans had crammed the stands, many carrying the Indian flag and many more wearing the Tri-colour. They waited impatiently as Serena Williams dismantled Daniela Hantuchova, chanting Sania’s name instead of cheering for the American or the Slovak.

The atmosphere was such that even Serena joined in, screaming "Let’s go Sania" after her win over the Hantuchova.


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And even before Sania took court, the American was making plans to counter the Indian’s fan support for her expected semifinal against Sania.

"It don’t look so good," Serena whistled as the stands erupted when Sania walked out. "She is playing really well and I predict she can win this tournament.

"I saw a few Americans in the stand today. I hope they will be there tomorrow as well," said Serena. "And I will just ask Venus (Williams) to scream just a louder for me," she giggled.

 

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But that wasn’t to be. Serena probably would have heaved a sigh of relief. For, though she has played in front of worst fans, it would have been really tough for the Australian Open champion.

So, instead of Sania, Serena was up against Jelena Jankovic in the semifinals last night. And Jankovic deserves every cent of the credit, she is a truly worthy opponent.

Instead of intimidating Jankovic, the packed stands roaring for Sania only served to steel her up. And 19 year-old from Serbia Montenegro dismantled the ‘Dream Girl’ of Indian tennis in 48 minutes, winning 6-2, 6-2 to break a million hearts.

Sania looked a shadow of the player who had subdued world number seven Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets 6-4, 6-2. She erred more, served four doua.ble faults and could win just 33 per cent of her service points. In fact, it wasn’t until the seventh game that she held her serve.

The fans saw the sign early as Jankovic raced to a 5-1 lead. But they didn’t betray Sania even then. The stands erupted every time Sania won a point; and when she hit a winner, the screams were ear-piercing. But their support couldn’t work any wonder this time as Jankovic just raced through the game.

"I was just trying to do a bit too much," said Sania. "To be honest I really don’t think I played that bad. She just made me look like that. She wasn’t making any errors."

True, Jankovic gave little away. She won 65 per cent of her service points and 68 per cent of return points.

"I tried to lose as few points as possible so they could cheer less," said Jankovic, the world No. 28 who was playing her fifth quarterfinal in her last eight Tier II appearances.

"But still every time she hit a winner — they went crazy.

"So I had to be really focused. I have never in played in front of such a big crowd; and especially with the whole crowd against me.

"I tried not to let them get to me. But I did want to get mad at them at times," Jankovic laughed.

"But I just tried to laughed through it," said Jankovic, who was seen laughing through points.

The Serbian did have a couple of supporters in the stand. "But even though they were shouting at their loudest, they couldn’t be heard," laughed Jankovic.

"I am sure they will wake up with hoarse throats," she added.

Jankovic was feeling sorry for the fans though. "I am sorry for all the Indian fans. They won’t have Sania here to cheer for," she said. "But I hope they will cheer for me in the semifinals."

Jankovic, however, conceded that Sania was playing really well. "I didn’t expect to get through. She was playing really well. But I just had one of those days where I wasn’t making any mistakes. I was moving really well, trying to be really aggressive and hardly making any errors.

"Towards the end, though, I relaxed a little and let her make the mistakes."

Sania rued coming up against an opponent on "song" but wasn’t disappointed.

"It’s been a great tournament," the 18-year-old wild card said. "This was just one of those matches where your opponent is on song.

"She played like I played against Kuznetsova. I wasn’t missing and she was trying to do too much. The roles were reversed today," said Sania, who became the first Indian woman to win a WTA Tour event when she won Hyderabad last month.

"It’s been a great tournament for me. The year’s been great and hopefully it will remain the same," added Sania, who has lost just three matches this year on the WTA Tour and won 10.

"The fans would be surely disappointed because they wanted me to win. But I tried my best and that’s why I am pretty satisfied," she shrugged.

She also said she had no problems with her ankle, which she injured in the match against Kuznetsova.

"The ankle was fine. I was moving well," said Sania, who was playing her first WTA Tier II quarterfinal.

Next stop for Sania is likely to be Miami.

"I am going home now. I think I am entered in Miami but depends whether I can get in or not because they will be counting my old rankings," said the Hyderabad girl, who is expected to jump to world number 77 from her present 97 after her performance here.

"We’ll see that otherwise I am probably going to go to France."

When somebody pointed out that she will not have such fan support in Miami or France, Sania shrugged her shoulders and said it’s no big deal.

"You have to get used to it. All these cricketers, when they are playing international matches, have to play in front of thousands. But when they are playing in the Ranji Trophy, there are three people watching them.

"So you just have to get used to it there is no big deal. They are going to be there, they are not going to be there," she shrugged.

Story provided by : Mr. S.K. Sharma (lonelytree@rediffmail.com)