If you are Himesh Reshammiya or Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 has been a good year for you. Not so if you are Sania Mirza. The Indian tennis star has won only nine of the 23 singles matches that she has played this year. Second round at the Australian Open is the best she has done in a Grand Slam.
Now the season is in its American leg and Sania did well at the Cincinnati WTA, reaching the last eight and running Patty Schnyder close. But last week, she fell in the first round in Stanford. The world No. 42 plays the Acura Classic in San Diego from Monday. And the US Open in New York (August 28-September 10) will be her last chance to do well in a major this year.
HT tossed a ‘wassup’ and a few other questions to the player on email.
Are you feeling more comfortable on the hardcourts in the US, where you did well last year (she reached one final, one quarterfinal and three pre-quarterfinals)? How are you going to prepare for the US Open?
Yes, I think that my game is best suited to the hardcourts though I believe that they've slowed them down in most of the places from last year. Regarding the US Open, playing against the best in the world on these hardcourts is the best way to get ready.
It's been almost five months since you hurt your elbow at the Bangalore Open, but the brace hasn't come off. Why?
It hurts while serving and I use the brace to protect myself from aggravating the injury.
A common point made when discussing the 'second year' is that players know your game. By the same logic, you know your rivals' game too. What observations have you made about your opponents? Do you maintain data on them?
Of course, we keep tabs on all the players. But it is not only about "knowing" the other's game. It is also about having or acquiring the ability to exploit an opponent's weaknesses. For instance, if I knew that a player is not a good returner of a kick-serve on the backhand side, I still need to have the ability to impart kick on the serve while serving consistently on her backhand side. Or if a player misses a lot of low balls, I need to have the ability to slice low, which cannot be acquired overnight.
Are you a player that goes into a match with lots of homework, or are you the type that prefers to not get weighed down by too much data?
I have a general gameplan when I go in but I do not like to have too much on my mind.
Have you gone back to Tony Roche after your stint with him early this year? Do you have plans of working with him again?
I meet him at all the Slams and he watches some of my games and advises me. No, I do not have any immediate plans of going to him again.
What are the reasons for working with (former player and Sania's ex-coach) Narendranath again? Don't you think a coach with greater experience internationally could serve you better at this stage?
I think in India, a lot of people seem to attach too much importance to having a big name as a travelling coach but frankly, there is not too much new stuff that a big coach - or any coach, for that matter - can work on during the tour. Even a Kim Clijsters travels without a coach and only uses a hitter. On tour, it is basically maintenance work rather than trying to change the technique because it just is not right to make changes during tournaments. Hence, I think one needs to have someone one is comfortable with.
I’m comfortable with Narendranath. That said, it does not necessarily mean he’ll work with me throughout because he has his own commitments.
Of the nine tie-breakers that you have played this year you have only won two. What could be the reason for this?
One reason I can assure you is luck because I have had atrocious line calls and chair overrules against me on critical points in four of those seven tie-breakers.
People believed you were awarded the Padma Shri a little too early. Do you believe age should be a factor when it comes to awards of this stature?
I don’t think age should be an issue at all.