Readying for the kill                                                                            Bombay Times | 23/8/2003  

Sania Mirza has a plan in place, writes Martin D'Souza

Imran and Naseema Mirza have a 15-month plan which they have put into action. A plan that will come into fruition when Sania, their celebrated daughter, will turn 18 in November 2004. "That's when we will strike out," says Imran, who now wants his champ to concentrate on the senior level participation. Imran, who left for the Canadian and US Open early on Thursday morning with his daughter reveals there are 13 senior tournaments lined up. "We have always put her ahead of her age group and the US Open is the last tournament where she will be participating in the junior category. We feel she has played enough of junior tournaments — she has already been in eight Grand Slams."

Elaborating further, Imran says, "We are focussing on the senior tournaments so that she can gain in experience and work on her weak points." As for the junior girls doubles Wimbledon champ, she is totally in accordance with her parents decision who were the ones responsible in initiating her into the sport. "My parents have played a big part in my progress," admits the teenager. "I don't think it would have been possible without their support and encouragement. I started at the age of 6 and they have really been after me."

So was it their choice of sport or yours, we ask. Sania pauses for a moment before replying. "Initially, it was just a game. I was just six then..." she trails off. Her dad jumps in to return the volley. "We wanted her to try her hand at the game and when she started, she showed so much flair that she would not give up even though we tried to. She is free to walk out any moment if she does not enjoy it."

And what about modelling, have the offers started pouring in? "I don't know yet, but there are talks going on," says the Steffi Graf fan.

Life for the Mirzas has changed drastically. "Earlier, my wife and me would alternate travelling with Sania, who is out eight months of the year, and the little time we got we would spend together with our younger daughter. But post Wimbledon, what little time we had, has gone to the press and events," laughs

"I can't travel in an auto anymore," says Sania. "It's tough. People easily recognise me now when I am out. Life has definitely changed, but it feels nice."
With the Wimbledon win, expectations are high but Sania is not letting herself get bogged down. "Yes, there is a lot of expectation from me now. There should be, but I have taken it in my stride. One has to deal with it. I'll give it my best shot no
matter what the result is."

The countdown has begun, and 15 months from now we will know how the plan has shaped. Till then, here's wishing Sania, all the best!


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Copyright 2006 Martin D'Souza. All rights reserved.