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'I intend to stay in the top-50'

She is enjoying a short break before the US Open begins in New York. The rise to the top-50 is something that has not changed her approach to the game.

india Updated: Aug 27, 2005 17:45 IST
S Kannan

How do you look at your rapid rise to top-50 in WTA rankings. Was it something that you had expected so soon?
I was within striking distance (of it) and I was confident that whenever I had a good couple of weeks on the WTA circuit, I would get into the top-50.

At the start of the year, when you broke into the top-100, what was going through your mind ... were you aiming to stay just there or keep moving ahead?
Whenever one moves to the next level, one has to quickly adjust to the higher standards. So, my focus was to first convince myself that I belonged to the top-100, and then, move to the next level. The ankle injury had put you off the rails for a few months.

How tough was it to come back and shake off all the rust in your movement and game?
Professional tennis is very competitive and it is never easy to come back from an injury. But, then, everyone on the circuit is struggling with some kind of injury.

How much of an influence has your new coach, Farrington, had on your game?
You have worked with several coaches ... so what's different in his coaching that has made you look even stronger on the court?
I'm as comfortable with John Farrington as I have been with most of my coaches. It's for the first time that I have a professional coach travelling with me. John is a great help in the sense that he finetunes my game before matches and scouts my opponents. But to attribute my immediate success only to his presence for three or four weeks on the circuit would be unfair on all the other dozen-odd coaches who have also played an important role in my development as a player over the last decade. A lot of comparisons are being made between you and Leander or Ramesh (Krishnan) as they were the last ones to be in the top.

You got past Leander's highest ranking of 73. Do you see yourself touching Ramesh's highest ranking of 23, which he attained some two decades back?
My present goal is to stay in the top-50 for a long time. This will give me an opportunity to play in all the Grand Slams and WTA Tier1 and 2 events against top players of the world. Hopefully, I will have a few good runs somewhere down the line and move up in rankings.

What would the challenge be like at the US Open now that you are a top50 player?
Unfortunately, a top-50 rank player does not get a seeding in Grand Slams. Hence, a lot will depend on what kind of a draw I get. For me, it's already thrilling to be in a position to be playing the fourth Grand Slam of the year on the trot after having played in the Australian Open, French and Wimbledon in 2005.

When you look at the next season, do you comprehend that you have a mountain of ranking points to defend? Or is it just that you take things as they come?
If I was the worrying kind, I don't think I would have come so far. One has to be prepared to perform consistently and the points and rankings will come automatically. You are now being looked upon at as the flag-bearer of Asian tennis.

What's your message to sports fans back home?
Thanks for the support.

Can you think of a situation where your superstar status is actually making it difficult for you to be seen in public places in India?
It's the price one pays for fame and there is not too much one can do to control it in a success-starved sports-crazy nation like India.


First Published: Aug 27, 2005 17:45 IST