SPORT

Tricky opener awaits Sania Mirza

ALL SET: Shikha Uberoi (left) has drawn Yaroslava Shvedova of Russia in the first round of the WTA tournament in Bangalore.   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: K. Gopinathan

Nandita Sridhar

Bangalore: Draws are meant to do nothing more than drop the iffiest of hints on future match-ups and create premature excitement on the basis of possibilities. Things might eventually pan out as perfectly scripted thrillers or potboilers gone horribly wrong, but no upset hereon can upstage Serena Williams's pullout, though Martina Sucha could rub it in by taking out Sania Mirza in the first round of the Sony Ericsson International WTA tennis tournament, at Bangalore.

Mara, Sania favourites

The absence of an overwhelming favourite gives both Sania (second seed), and defending champion and top-seed Mara Santangelo (who lost to Sania in the quarterfinals at Pattaya) a good chance to win the title. Santangelo will face a qualifier in the first round, after the draws were made on Saturday in the presence of R. Ashok, Minister for Health, Govt. of Karnataka, after Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy could not make it.

Sania can expect little respect from Sucha (ranked 98), who upset top-seed Marion Bartoli in Pattaya, and the first round match could prove tricky for her. But the Indian is in good form, and should do well in her first round encounter.

Shikha Uberoi (ranked 230 and in the same quarter as Sania) will face Yaroslava Shvedova of Russia (ranked 133) in the first round, someone she "doesn't know much about," while junior national champion Tara Iyer will face Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia. Alicia Molik, now ranked 99, will face eighth seed Alberta Brianti.

The organisers, trying their utmost to shrug off Serena's absence as unfortunate, but a part of sport, were optimistic that the tournament would still be a success.

Qualifying: First round (Indians unless otherwise specified): Yurika Sema (Jpn)-Bye; Arthi Venkataraman bt Anne Schaefer (Ger) 6-3, 6-1; Jing Ren (Chn) bt Isha Lakhani 6-2, 6-2; Shuai Zhang (Chn) bt Poojashree Venkatesh 7-5, 6-1; Shengnan Sun (Chn)-Bye; Ankita Bhambri bt Rushmi Chakravarthi 7-5, 6-4; Lavinia Tananta (Ina) bt Archana Venkataraman 6-1, 6-2; Amina Rakhim (Kaz) bt Sunita Rao (USA) 7-6, 3-6, 6-4; Chin-Wei Chan (Tpe) bt Meghha Vakaria 6-4, 6-2; Xinyun Han (Chn)-Bye; Sandy Gumulya (Ina) bt Sanaa Bhambri 7-5, 6-2; Sandhya Nagaraj bt Neha Uberoi (USA) 6-2, 6-3; Andreja Klepac (Slo) bt Prerana Appineni 6-0, 6-1; Asha Nanda Kumar bt Brie Whitehead (USA) 6-0, 6-0; Nudnida Luangnam (Tha) bt Yanchong Chen (Chn) 6-4, 6-4