Sania enters second round of Oz Open
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Sania enters second round of Oz Open

The world number 53 defeats Ukraine's Olga Savchuk 6-3, 7-5 in the first Grand Slam of the year.

india Updated: Jan 16, 2007 21:58 IST

India's tennis icon Sania Mirza warded off the challenge of Ukranian Olga Savchuk to reach the women's singles second round of the Australian Open here on Tuesday.

In a one-and-half-hour battle, Sania overcame Olga 6-3 7-5 to keep up the Indian hopes at the first Grand Slam of the season.

The 53rd ranked Indian ace banked on her experience to make the most of Olga's double faults and unforced errors.

Olga helped Sania's cause in the first set by committing as many as six double faults. The Hyderabadi's ability to hold onto her serves and better game near the net also paid dividends as she cruised to bag the set in 44 minutes.

Sania was under pressure as the 102-ranked Olga fought back in the second set by minimising the double faults and giving the higher-ranked Indian a run for her money.

However, the Ukraine girl's spiralling unforced errors let Sania off the hook.

Sania, who was broken once in the second set, made amends to break back twice and wrap up the set in 46 minutes.

The 20-year-old Indian, basking in the glory of good shows in Asian Games, Hopman Cup and Hobart International meet, said with growing experience she had become a better player now.

"I'm a more complete player these days, I believe I have more than when I was 30 in the world, I'm 53 now and I play much better tennis today than I did then," she said after the match.

"I feel a lot fitter, I'm moving a lot better, probably the serve is my weakest point right now, but it's not exactly a weakness, but it's not a strength, it's just a matter of consolidating on that and playing some quality matches," Sania added.

Sania, who plays Eleni Daniilidou of Greece or Japan's Aiko Nakamura in the next round, said she was thrilled to know that many Indians follow her performances closely.

"Tennis is really growing in India as a sport. I got so many messages today from people saying they were going to sleep early so they could get up early in the morning to see my match on TV. I've never seen or heard of that before, people following tennis in such a big way," she said.

"It is a good feeling (being a role model) and everything has its pros and cons. But it's great when someone comes up and says I picked up a tennis racquet because of you and what's you've done.

"You need a role model to look up to and when you look at someone doing it from your own country you start believing that you can do it too.

"A lot of people are picking up tennis racquets and I just hope that five, six years from now we don't have one woman tennis player we have a few more. I think it's just a matter of time before we have more players coming out at this level," Sania added.

First Published: Jan 16, 2007 09:42 IST