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Mentally-strong Mirza sets up dream Venus clash

sports Updated: Jan 17, 2008 16:14 IST

A new-found mental strength paid dividends for Sania Mirza on Thursday when she set up a dream Australian Open third round clash with six-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams.

India's highest profile tennis player, who considered quitting earlier this month after becoming engulfed in another controversy back home, found extra reserves to beat Swiss qualifier Timea Bacsinszky 6-1, 4-6, 7-5.

And the Hyderabad-based right hander was very happy with her performance given the off-court dramas that have hindered her build-up to the tournament.

"She was in the match till the end, and I think I was just stronger a bit mentally. I hung in there very well," she said.

Awaiting her next up is eighth seed Williams. They haven't played each other since 2005 when the American won and Mirza is excited at the prospect.

"I'm just going to go for it. I have nothing to lose. I'm very excited, actually, to play Venus," said Mirza, seeded 31.

"I think the last time I played her was in Stanford a couple years ago, and I haven't played her since. And obviously I feel like I'm playing well, and I'm playing better tennis than I was a couple of years ago. And so is she."

Earlier this month Mirza was photographed with her bare feet resting near the Indian flag, prompting ultra-nationalists to launch a court case accusing her of insulting the nation.

Mirza, who has previously ran afoul of Muslim fundamentalists for wearing short skirts and sleeveless tops on court, admitted she thought about quitting when the flag row first flared, but said she is now mentally stronger.

"I think at the end of the day, when you go out on the court, it's you, the ball and the opponent," she said.

"You really don't care who else is sitting, who else is watching.

"I'm very pleased by winning like this today because a lot has been happening in the last couple of weeks off the court, and I just feel I was mentally still strong enough to come through a match like that.

"I mean, I was down 3-1, 30-all (in third). You know, I could have just said, 'I'm just mentally not there'. It would have been a good excuse even for myself.

"But I didn't want to do that. I wanted to come through. And I proved to myself that I'm mentally strong enough to do that. "