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Sania has ability to break into top ten: Bhupathi

Bhupathi wants Sania to improve her serves and mobility besides seeking to see her attack the net more.

india Updated: Sep 10, 2005 18:54 IST

US Open mixed doubles champion Mahesh Bhupathi wants Sania Mirza to improve her serves and mobility besides seeking to see her attack the net more even as he predicted that the Indian teen sensation would break into the top ten in the world.

"She (Sania) has surprised all of us. We all expected her to break into the top 100, but she has exceeded all the expectations. I expect her to peak in three years," Bhupathi said on Saturdayon his return after clinching the US Open mixed doubles crown with Slovak partner Daniela Huntuchova.

"She has to stay healthy and she will surprise all of us even more. She has the ability to break into the top ten," Bhupathi said.

Asked what she needed to improve on, Bhupathi said, "her serves and mobility. I also would like to see her attack the net more. She has to work on her fitness too."

Bhupathi praised the work put in by Sania's travelling coach John Farrington and said that the talented Hyderabad girl, whose glorious run in the US Open women's singles ended at the pre-quarter-final stage, would take a call on the coach at the end of 2005.

"We (Bhupathi's company Globosport which handles Sania's marketing) let her take her own decisions. John (Farrington) has done a pretty good job. She would take a decision (whether to continue the arrangement with Farrington) at the end of the year," Bhupathi said.

The doubles specialist was in the city to announce the commercial tie up of suburban Andheri's "The Club" with the "Mahesh Bhupathi Tennis Academy", based in Bangalore.

Bhupathi came out in support of Mumbai-born young tennis player Harsh Mankad,who has criticised his omission from the four-man Indian squad to take on Sweden in the Davis Cup play-off tie at Delhi from September 23-25.

Mankad has been chosen as the reserve behind team members Leander Paes (captain), Bhupathi -- who are expected to play the doubles -- and singles players Prakash Amritraj and Rohah Bopanna.

"I think Harsh has good reason to make a noise. He has had a good year and his ranking is also high. We do have five to six top guys (to play in Davis Cup)."

"But as captain, Leander (Paes) can make a change and include him in the team if he feels Harsh is good," Bhupathi said.

"But I cannot comment as my input is not taken in team selection," he added.

About the tie itself, Bhupathi said India were obviously the underdogs but weather conditions may play a part.

"We are the underdogs. But the heat and humidity factors have to be taken into consideration. The pressure is on the Swedes," he said.

About his triumph in the US Open mixed doubles event with Slovak partner Daniela, that fetched him his ninth Grand Slam crown (all in doubles including four in men's), Bhupathi said it was never easy.

"We were down a match point in our first round match and were lucky to come out of that (hole). Later on we played well though we had a tough draw. And towards the end we played quality tennis," he elaborated.

Speaking about his venture, specifically his tie-up with a suburban Mumbai club, Bhupathi said it was different from the approach taken by the erstwhile Brittania-Amritraj Tennis Academy which brought to the fore talents like Paes, Gaurav Natekar (now with Bhupathi's Globosport as a director) and Asif Ismail.

"BAT was a focussed affair with a handpicked eight players in it. It had the support of the corporates. Ours (Mahesh Bhupathi Tennis Academy) is different. We believe in broad basing our search. From quantity we can get quality," he said.

"Our tie-up in Mumbai is a purely commercial affair. We are going to have different fee structure for different cities. It would be different for beginners, intermediates and advanced programmes. These details are still being worked out," he said.

Asked about the age limit from which he intends to choose a trainee, Bhupathi said, "we want to restrict it to 7 and onwards, but I am not going to stop a five-year-old from enrolling."

The MBTA is considering tie-ups with reputed academies either in Europe, USA or Australia and "intends to start a branch in Italy to help the academy trainees when they tour Europe," he said.

The aim in starting the academy is to realise his dream of starting coaching centres and to instill proper training to produce more world class players, he said.

First Published: Sep 10, 2005 18:54 IST