A rising star

Aiming high Zainab Ali Sajjad

Aiming high Zainab Ali Sajjad  

Zainab is set to emerge as another big name in tennis from Hyderabad

Thirteen-year-old Zainab Ali Sajjad lived upto expectations with a fine performance in the Asian ranking tennis tournament in Pune recently. She finished a creditable third and picked up 160 Asian ranking points.

She began by demolishing seventh seeded Ravina Shetty 6-3, 6-2 in the first round (that day was incidentally her birthday). In the pre-quarter finals she beat V.K.C. Vishesh 6-4, 6-1 and then in the quarter finals Zainab got the better of giant killer Parminder Kaur. Earlier, in her first round match, Parminder had defeated the top seed in the tournament but Zainab registered a comfortable 6-2, 6-2 victory.

However, in the semi-final Zainab came up against the hard fighting Natasha Palha and lost 4-6, 4-6. Natasha later went on to win the title with remarkable ease. Had Zainab won the crucial semi final, there was a strong likelihood that she may have won the championship. In the play off for the third place, Zainab defeated Vaidehi Bhagwanth 6-2, 2-6, 6-0.

Now back in Hyderabad, Zainab has lost no time in resuming her tough routine. She works on her fitness (including skipping), and court drills designed by her father Ali Sajjad. “I have been working on my serve and volleys since the past one year and I feel I have improved considerably in these areas,” says Zainab.

Ali Sajjad, being a former State champion himself, has come up with an innovative set of drills which are designed to bring out the best in Zainab. “I make her play mostly with boys since that makes her work harder,” he says.

At the same time he is careful to see that she does not suffer an early burn out. So he plans carefully to decide which tournaments she should play in, and which she can afford to miss. Right now their main target is to make a mark in the national championship which is scheduled to be held in August.

The recent French Open championships provided Zainab a great opportunity to learn from watching the worlds best players including her favourite Rafael Nadal.

“I always make her watch the matches on television and I point out the plus points and also the mistakes that each player makes,” says Ali Sajjad.

He believes that it is no use blaming bad luck or fate for lack of success. He feels that the truly merited persons will always come out on top if he or she takes the required steps. And he wants Zainab to inculcate this spirit into her sport and in her life.

The next few years will be a crucial phase for Zainab. If she remains focused on her sport and strictly follows the discipline required, she may well emerge as yet another big name from Hyderabad.

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