India's next tennis 'Tara'

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> As Sania Mirza blazes a trail on the international circuit, another 19-year-old is beginning to do the same on the ITF circuit in India.

Updated: September 05, 2007 10:19 IST
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New Delhi:

As Sania Mirza blazes a trail on the international circuit, another 19-year-old is beginning to do the same on the ITF circuit in India.

Tara Iyer has just won her third ITF title in four weeks. She has also jumped more than 200 places to reach 393 in the world rankings since the beginning of the year. She's now aiming to break into the top 250 by the end of the year.

Tara Iyer's biggest complaint is that when she plays piano, only her cat Tuna bothers to listen closely. And while Tara might slip up with a note or two, she rarely misses a shot on the tennis court. The 19-year-old recently completed a hattrick of ITF titles, her third title coming last weekend in the capital.

Tara and her family moved back to India from the US earlier this year. That after Tara had already pocketed two ITF titles, in England and Portugal. The teenager has represented India in the Fed Cup once as well.

Is Tara the next Sania?

The comparison is but natural, and Tara Iyer's road to success has not been very different from Sania Mirza's. Both have been coached from an early stage by their respective fathers. Tara too has a big serve and a killer forehand.

But the question is how far will these wins on the ITF circuit Tier II and III tournaments take the 19-year-old? After all, Sania had already made it to the fourth round of a Grand Slam when she was 18.

"These are basically the stepping stones and the idea is to do well in these and then aim for the bigger WTA tournaments. I think the advantage that Tara has over the other Indian girls is that she's spent quite a few years abroad playing competitive tennis, I think that gives her a definite edge," said Parameswaran Iyer, Tara's father and coach.

While Tara might be more than 350 places behind Sania in the world rankings, she's managed to race up a whole 200 places from the beginning of the year, going from 618 to 393.

And now Iyer is looking to slip into top gear, she's heading to Uzbekistan for the Asian Championships, where a win could earn her a wild card for her first ever Grand slam event, the Australian Open.

After her initial hiccups on the Indian women's circuit, Tara Iyer has come back strongly. And with her impressive court movement and groundstrokes, the going will only get better, as she gears for her next challenge, this year's Sunfeast Open, where she expects to get a wildcard entry.

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