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Asif Ismail to help out Sania

Injuries are part and parcel of tennis pro's career. And Sania Mirza is fully aware that cent per cent fitness is almost unachievable on the WTA Tour

india Updated: Apr 17, 2006 02:07 IST
S Kannan

Injuries are part and parcel of tennis pro's career. And Sania Mirza is fully aware that cent per cent fitness is almost unachievable on the WTA Tour where one is playing so many weeks, jet-setting to different parts of the globe.

Sania was in the Capital on Sunday for just a day and then left with the Fed Cup squad for Seoul, where India compete next week in the Asia-Oceania Zone Group I. It was Sania who lifted India four years back from Group II into Group I, so she knows what is expected of her.

The 19-year-old Hyderabad girl looks athletic and fit, all a result of the Australian trainer who was with her for over four months. "Yes, Jade Hottes helped me out and it's been good," said Sania. Jade was a football trainer in Australia and knew the regimen for Sania had to be a bit different. For someone who has been through injuries, keeping her fit was the main task.

One look at Sania and you can be sure there's no flab. Maybe, if the injuries go away once and for all, she will be a stronger player. But the improvement is already there to be seen.

Her serve, considered the weakest part, has got better. Match stats in tournaments say her first serve percentage has gone up and there can be further improvement.

And at the fore court as well, Sania has shown she is no bunny. "It's not as if I have a regular doubles partner now. I have played with different partners since most of them sign up at the start of the year," said Sania. Nevertheless, her doubles ranking has improved drastically (40 as of this week) which means she can now hope for some solid players to be pairing with her in Grand Slams.

Fed Cup apart, the bigger challenges lie ahead in the WTA Tour for Sania. "I am taking a two-week break after the Fed Cup. After that, I will go into the clay court season," says Sania. The plan is to be in two clay events in Rome and Turkey before the French Open.

But considering that clay is not her favourite surface, one must wait for perhaps the grass-court season.

Starting from the French Open till the end of Wimbledon - six weeks - Sania will have former National champion and Davis Cupper Asif Ismail helping her out. In effect, that means there will be no John Farrington, a coach who has worked with her in recent months.

When Sania played in Hong Kong recently, she had taken some help from Asif Ismail. And for a man who had a big serve in his playing days, more than tinkering with her technique, Asif would be a good hitting partner.

Certainly, at a time when we are obsessed with foreign coaches in almost any sport, Sania's decision to take help from an Indian does come as a pleasant surprise.