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Sania forays into grass victory

The Hyderabadi girl beat Ukraine's Alona Bondarenko to reach the second round of WTA Classic in Birmingham.

india Updated: Jun 14, 2006 14:09 IST

Sania Mirza relived the best day of her career so far when she overcame Alona Bondarenko 6-2 3-6 6-3 to reach the second round of the WTA DFS Classic in Birmingham.

Mirza beat the 21-year-old Ukrainian in the final of her home city tournament in Hyderabad last year to become the first Indian woman to win a WTA Tour title.

This time Mirza again won in three sets, though there were moments, particularly when she slipped to a 1-3 deficit in the final set, when it seemed she was going to fall short.

But she regained focus and counter-attacked boldly for a satisfactory start to her grass-court buildup to Wimbledon.

"I lost a bit of concentration and she came up with some good shots," Mirza admitted on Tuesday. "I am happy just to have won it.

"I have been practicing on the grass for the last three days, so I am getting used to it.

"After what happened last season (a great match with Svetlana Kuznetsova at Wimbledon) I think everyone back home will be looking forward to this season," added the 19-year-old 14th seed.

Mirza might have won more easily. She played an excellent first set, striking the ball hard.

But she wasted a great chance to take Bondarenko's opening service game in the second set, hitting a service return into the net from a second delivery at 30-40.

She then slipped awkwardly at 30-30 on her own serve two games later, losing the point and performing three sets of leg exercises before resuming.

Bondarenko improved the rhythm of her groundstrokes, clinging to her advantage throughout the second set and advancing to 3-1 in the final set, despite a heavy fall.

But then the Indian, betraying signs of irritation and bouncing her racket in frustration, launched an all-out attack to win the last five games and the match.

Mirza faces American Shenay Perry, the world number 92, for a shot at a quarterfinal place in a section without third seed Daniela Hantuchova, who withdrew with a wrist injury on Monday.

On a rain-affected day only three other matches were completed. American Bethanie Mattek beat Julia Schruff of Germany 6-4 6-7 6-1; China's Peng Shuai defeated Australian Nicole Pratt 2-6 7-5 6-4, while Slovakia's Jarmila Gajdosova overcame another Chinese player in Yuan Meng 6-3 6-4.

Two-time defending champion Maria Sharapova endured a frustrating day. The 2004 Wimbledon singles winner never got on court to start a second round match, the 19-year-old Russian's first of this year's tournament, against American qualifier Ahsha Rolle.

First Published: Jun 14, 2006 14:09 IST