Sania expects tennis to rise a notch in India

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Tennis ace Sania Mirza expects Indian tennis to reach the next level after the slew of excellent shows in the first Grand Slam of the Year.

Updated: February 01, 2009 10:42 IST
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Basking in her new-found Australian Open glory, tennis ace Sania Mirza expects Indian tennis to reach the next level after the slew of excellent shows in the first Grand Slam of the Year.

A day after Delhi lad Yuki Bhambri won the boys singles crown, Sania on Sunday partnered seasoned pro Mahesh Bhupathi in mixed doubles and went on to win her first Grand Slam title at the Melbourne Park.

Bhupathi in fact could have finished with a double crown but for the narrow loss in the men's doubles final on Saturday and Sania believes the game is poised to reach the next level in India.

"It is (a very good tournament for Indian tennis.) I mean, even in the juniors, we had a Grand Slam champion as well. So, yes, it's been a great two weeks," a beaming Sania said.

Asked how much impact it would have back home, the Hyderabadi ace said, "Let's hope a lot. You know, it's great. I don't remember the last time when we had so many -- I mean, he (Bhupathi) played the (men's doubles) finals, we won today, Yuki won. It's been a great two weeks.

"Let's hope a lot more people play, and tennis grows. It's been growing. It might take it to another level," said Sania.

Personally, it was nothing short of a dream-come-true moment, admitted Sania.

"It's always a dream to win a Grand Slam. That's what we all play for I think when we're younger. It's just great. It makes it more special because it's with someone that I know for so long and so well," she said.

"I think it's a feeling that you can't really describe. You're obviously very happy. It's a dream come true," she added.

On her partnership with Bhupathi, Sania said, "It's great. What can you say? We've been playing for I think four or five slams now. We came very close last year, as well.

"Yeah, we did one better this time. We hope to continue."

Sania and Bhupathi needed less than an hour to tame their opponents -- Nathalie Dechy and Andy Ram -- in straight sets and the tennis ace said she was rather surprised at the facile victory.

"I think we both played really well today. Honestly, I was a little surprised because it was my first final of a Grand Slam, nerves and everything. But I think we stepped it up after the first few games, and then suddenly we were on a roll.

"The last few days I've been feeling like I've been hitting the ball really well. Yeah, it helps when your partner helps you out so much, when you make a couple of returns and he's flying on the net," she said.

Sania was particularly happy with the way her injury-prone wrist responded to the challenge here.

"The wrist has held up. That's the biggest positive, is that I played men's players for the last two weeks, and it's held up," she explained.

Sania held her nerve while serving for the title and said she never got overwhelmed by the prospect of winning her first Grand Slam title.

"(while serving) I was trying to block that score out. I wasn't really looking at the scoreboard and thinking, Oh, it's 5-1, I'm serving for the championship. I was just trying to serve it out like it was any other game," she said.

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