Even though it was an erratic performance, Sania Mirza still managed to lighten the gloom on a city soaked by a severe depression.
She took four minutes longer than Martina Hingis whose second-round showing, like that of the Indian fifth-seed on Thursday, was a mixture of light and shade.
Like Hingis, Sania graduated into a different zone minimising her errors in the last five games of the 7-5, 6-3 scoreline against 109th ranked German Sandra Kloesel to enter the quarter-finals.
That's when the aces flew, the double-faults vanished and the first serve percentage improved from a woeful 52 to a healthier 60. Aravane Rezai and Tamarine Tanasugarn won't agree but maybe such coincidences do point to a Saturday evening semi-final showdown with the Swiss Miss.
“I am not thinking of that. I take it match by match and even on Tuesday I had said that this could be my last press conference. For the moment, I am looking at the quarter-finals. Aravane is a hugely talented player who has made the third round of the French and fourth round of the US Open. She too hits hard and it will be a battle of big hitters,” Sania said at a post-match media conference.
Broken twice early in the second set, Sania made a great comeback just when it seemed her service was disintegrating. The fifth game turned the match after a bizarre first set where seven of the 12 games didn't go with serve. “I was having problems with the toss,” Sania said.
Trailing 1-3 on Kloesel's serve Sania fired a forehand winner to earn two break points. Though Kloesel saved the first with an ace, a long forehand gave Sania the fillip she was looking for. “It was a big game,” she said later. She was up 40-0 in the next game and despite a bad approach at the net, which made it 40-15, held serve without too much of a bother.
That was the first time Sania did that in the second set. It squared things at 3-3 and players of pedigree usually do not need a second invitation in such situations. Up 0-30 and then 15-40 in the next game, Sania was making Kloesel run and went up a break, attacking the point and finishing it with a deft lob.
Sania was in front for the first time in the set and managed to keep it that way by hitting a forehand that was too good for Kloesel and following that up with an ace.
Serving to stay in the match and trailing 15-30, Kloesel was unlucky at the net but saved the first match point and took game nine to deuce. A forehand crosscourt winner made it 'Advantage Mirza' and the last second-round singles match of the second Sunfeast Open ended with India's hopes staying alive.
“There are times when rankings don't matter. Sandra may not be in the top 100 but she was doing everything right and I had to produce something extra,” Sania said. By playing longer rallies and concentrating harder, Sania did just that in her first-ever meeting against a player whose no-frills game had stumped the higher-ranked Galina Voskoboeva in the first round.