After missing the team event due to an ear infection, India's best tennis medal hope Sania Mirza breezed into the singles second round with a straight-set demolition of Hong Kong's Chan Wing Yau Venise in the Asian Games here on Thursday.
Unseeded Sania needed just 50 minutes to whip Chan 6-1 6-0 with her booming forehands and effective backhands to book a meeting with Chinese sixth seed Zhang Shuai for a place in the quarterfinals.
If she wins, Sania is likely to meet second seed Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand, a two-time silver medalist, in the last eight at the Aoti Tennis centre here.
Zhang crushed Nepal's Malika Rana 6-0 6-0 though the latter looked little better than a club-level player in movements and strokes.
"I am still not hundred per cent fit but feeling a lot better," said Sania who is under medication since arriving here for the infection which she thinks she picked up in Luxembourg on the women's circuit.
However, compatriot Poojashree Venkatesha became a first round casualty, suffering a 2-6 2-6 defeat against Chinese Taipei's Chen Kai Chang in another women's singles match.
Sania, ranked 166 and just outside the seeding list as the ninth-best ranker here, took some time to get into her groove and had to stave off five break points in the opening set but thereafter she simply outclassed her rival who played with a heavily strapped left thigh and was well supported by the centre court crowd.
"I was a bit rusty initially as I was playing (in a match) after three weeks. I did not know her and it took some time," said Sania who was watched courtside by her husband and former Pakistan cricket captain Shoaib Malik and her mother.
Sania quickly jumped to a 4-0 lead in the first set before her rival, the 22nd ranked player in the tournament, could hold her serve for the first, and what proved to be the only time in the match.
Sania grabbed the opening set in 27 minutes and put severe pressure on Chan from the start of the second set and had her rival 0-30 down with some solid forehand shots that helped her break serve.
The Hyderabad-based Sania, who held a ranking of 29 a few years ago when she progressed at lightning pace in the circuit before injuries halted it, also showed her felicity with the backhand in the match.
The Indian was up 4-0 with the second break of serve in the set with the help of two forehand winners. For the first and only time in the match she later double-faulted but that did not prevent her from holding her serve easily at 30.
A clearly upset Chan, serving to stay in the match, double-faulted to be down 15-30 and Sania went match point up with a superb inside-out forehand winner before Chan netted a backhand and conceded the game, set and match. The second set lasted 23 minutes.
In all Sania converted 3 out of 5 and 3 out of 4 break points in the two sets but her first serve percentage was down to 42 and 38 per cent, but she also came up with a total of 15 service winners.
Asked about it she brushed it aside saying, "I won 6-1 6-0."
Sania's next round opponent Zhang Shuai said she knows how good Sania is and have to be more careful against the Indian star.
"I have to pay more attention. I have played Sania two months ago. She is a very good player and a silver medalist from Doha," Zhang said.
The top seed in women's singles is Japanese veteran Kimiko-Date Krumm, with a world ranking of 46. The 40-year-old player and gold medalist at home in the 1994 Hiroshima Games returned to the circuit recently and also became the oldest player in a WTA event final when she lost to Tanasugarn at Osaka. The combined age of these two players in the title-clash was the oldest known in WTA final.
Seeded ahead of Sania are Date, Tanasugarn, Akgul Amanmuradova (Uzbekistan, world no. 69), Shuai Peng (China, 72), Ayumi Morita (Japan, 76), Shuai Zhang (China, 91), Kai-Chen Chang (Taipei, 119) and Jin-A Lee (Korea, 160).