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Birthday girl Sania gets a perfect gift

A VERY SPECIAL DAY: After a memorable year, Sania Mirza will celebrate her 19th birthday with parents, family members and close friends on Tuesday. — Photo: R.V. Moorthy

A VERY SPECIAL DAY: After a memorable year, Sania Mirza will celebrate her 19th birthday with parents, family members and close friends on Tuesday. — Photo: R.V. Moorthy  

Training with Roche confirmed

V.V. Subrahmanyam

HYDERABAD: It was a perfect birthday gift for Sania Mirza, who turns 19 on Tuesday, as the news confirming her 14-day training stint with Australian Tony Roche prior to the Australian Open came on Monday.

"I am really excited. Roche will work on my serve, the weakest link in my game," Sania said in an exclusive chat with The Hindu. "Roche is the best in the business. That is why we picked him.

"Realistically, I have not set any targets for the forthcoming year. I just wanted to break into the top 50 by year-end.

"I am delighted that I have achieved more than what I dreamt of. I hope things will continue to improve," she said.

From now on, Sania aims to get a direct seeding in Grand Slams and big events. "It gives me a chance to achieve my lifetime goal of being out there at the top," she said.

After a hectic year, the Indian tennis star is planning to celebrate her 19th birthday with parents, family members and a few friends.

"It is my birthday. Let me celebrate it the way I love to.

She is now enjoying the company of her family members — father Imran Mirza, mother Naseema and sister Anam Mirza.

"I dedicate all my achievements to my parents. The high point during the last 12 months has been the match I lost to World No. 4 Svetlana Kuznetsova at Wimbledon. I think I played my best tennis. There was only a marginal difference between her game and mine. Only a few errors separated the winner and loser," Sania said.

"The Indian coaches failed to spot the technical flaws in my game. I am also taking physical conditioning more seriously," she said, pointing to the full-fledged gym she has set up at home.

On fitness

Sania says she has recovered from the ankle injury and is 90 per cent fit. "It has been agonising, as I have had to recover from 10 injuries on the same ankle," she added.

Her sporting heroes? "Well, I love to watch Sachin Tendulkar with all guns blazing. He is an amazing sportsperson. He has been my childhood idol. In tennis, it is Steffi Graf."

She also loves to chat with childhood friends and schoolmates, Saba Azmi and Rucha Naik, as well as Anjana Parekh and Anjana on the circuit. "It is not that I don't have any other friends, but these are the regular ones," Sania said.

Fresh from her appearance in Amitabh Bachchan's Kaun Banega Crorepati, Sania said that the Bollywood star was the most powerful personality. "It was a great experience," she recalled.

Reducing the risk

Sania is expecting to get the first pair of the specially redesigned Lotto shoes to reduce the risk of injury. "She had been to Venice recently to get the size of the shoe tested and they have finalised one meant specially for her," said Imran Mirza. Sania will join the likes of Becker and Agassi, who used such specially designed shoes.

Despite being out-of-action for a month, Sania retained her career-best 31st spot in singles in the latest WTA rankings released on Monday. In doubles, she jumped a rung up to 111.

Sania, who is hungry for more, says that she would be a more determined player over the next 12 months.

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