I am back and ready to compete with big girls: Sania

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/s/sania.jpg' class='caption'> Indian tennis sensation Sania Mirza, who gave a huge scare to former World No 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium in the first round of the Australian Open toda

Updated: January 17, 2011 15:42 IST
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Melbourne :

Indian tennis sensation Sania Mirza, who gave a huge scare to former World No 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium in the first round of the Australian Open today, said she is almost back to her best.

"I think this sends out a very big message as to where I stand now as a tennis player again," Sania said after going down 7-5 3-6 1-6 to the seven-time Grand Slams winner Henin in the first round today.

"I have not played someone like that for a couple of years now and I showed I could compete against her," she added.

The 24-year-old, who booked a berth in the women's singles main draw of the Australian Open after going through a tough qualifying route, gave Henin a run for her money today.

Henin had to draw all her trademark fighting spirit to avoid a disastrous first-round departure from the mega-event.

Sania, during her seventh straight Australian Open appearance, came up with some excellent winners and looked almost set to cause an upset when she stunned her 11th-seeded Belgium opponent in a whirlwind first set.

"For me, to know I can match a player like that is something I am really happy about. It gives me a lot of confidence that I am back and I am ready to compete with the big girls."

Having won the first set that lasted an hour, Sania raised hopes of an improbable Indian win but failed to make any impact in the remaining two sets, allowing Henin to come back right into the game and finally seal the match in little over two hours.

"I am playing close to the level I was playing when I was top 30 in the world. I want to take this momentum forward, I am ready to be back where I was," said Sania.

Sania, who once reached as high as 27th in WTA rankings, slipped to 145 because to a recurring wrist injury last season, which resulted in her playing in the qualifying round of the Australia Open.

Sania completed here qualifiers only yesterday and said that she was tired by the time she reached the final set today.

"I did feel a bit of fatigue in the third set, I don't want to play (qualifiers) in another Slam. I was a bit tired, the match was pretty long, but there are some things that I need to work on," said Sania.

The Hyderabadi added that she was happy to be fully fit now, with no soreness in her wrist.

"This was the best test for me, to know where I am stand. My aim is not be in the (qualifiers) of the next Grand Slam, which gives me four months to play as much as possible and hopefully stay healthy.

"When I am healthy the results show. It is about getting more matches in like these and I can get back to where I was and even better," said Sania.

She also stressed that she would be concentrating on spending the next few months working on her ranking so that she do not have to play qualifiers again.

Sania's best singles performance at the Australian Open has been her third round appearances in 2005 and 2008. She had won the mixed doubles title with compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi in 2009, which is her only Grand Slam title. 

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