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Sania's win leaves her mom stunned

When Sania had left for the US her aim was to win only first round at US Open.

india Updated: Sep 03, 2005 16:51 IST

When Sania Mirza boomed her way into the fourth round of the US Open, the tennis sensation left her parents -- and indeed much of India -- stunned.

"She is a fighter to the core but we never expected that she would come this far," her mother Naseema said after Sania, currently ranked 42, created history for India on Friday night.

She beat 43rd-ranked Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli 7-6, 6-4 to set up a meeting with Russian top seed Maria Sharapova.

When Sania had left for the US in July 14 her aim was to win only the first round at US Open. "You should not expect anything from me," she had said.

The young tennis champ believes in winning one match at a time. And this approach has helped her climb up the ladder and reach the fourth round of the Grand Slam event.

She was confident of achieving her goal of breaking into the top 50 by the end of this year but reached the target last month following her good show in the WTA tournaments. She ranked 42 after reaching Forest Hills Women's Tennis Classic in New York last week.

"This helped her peak up at the right time," said her mother.

This was the second WTA final for Sania, who had created history by winning her maiden WTA title in Hyderabad in February2005.

The 18-year-old's victory at Hyderabad Open was the beginning of her meteoric rise in the international tennis arena. The biggest win of her career came at the Dubai Open in March when she upset world number four and US Open Champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets 6-4, 6-2.

Despite being troubled by an ankle injury, which forced her to miss some key tournaments, Sania came back strongly to improve her ranking. Refusing to give up after her first round exit at French Open, Sania worked hard to make a comeback.

The win over Japan's Akiko Morigami, then ranked four places above her, in the first round at Wimbledon gave her the much needed boost. The decision of her parents to hire John Farrington of the US as travelling coach proved a shot in the arm before the US Open.

The good showing at WTA tournaments before the US Open helped her improve her ranking dramatically by 30 notches.

"The dizzy climb appears like a fairy tale but there is 12 years of hard work of Sania and her parents behind it," said Raman Ganesh, one of her coaches.

The year began with an epoch-making win for Sania when she advanced to the third round of Australian Open and became the first Indian girl to reach the third round of a Grand Slam. She was ranked 166 before the Australian Open. She went down fighting against Serena Williams in the third round but that was enough to take her ranking to 129.

"Next time I want to beat Serena," said a determined Sania after her return from Australia.

Sania started playing tennis at the age of six. Her father Imran Mirza, a cricketer, and her mother Naseema nurtured this talent.

Her international career started in 1999 with the world junior meet in Jakarta. She won the Junior ITF title at Islamabad and also became number one among juniors in India the same year.

She hit the headlines in 2002 by winning the gold medal at the National Games and the bronze at the Busan Asian Games. The same year she won three ITF titles. Sania, who won the Wimbledon junior doubles title in 2003, clinched a total of 12 ITF singles and five doubles titles.

First Published: Sep 03, 2005 16:51 IST