The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sania loses game, not heart
- Serena works crowd, winner Jelena sorry for fans

Dubai, March 3: Egged on by Serena Williams, 5,000 fans cheered vociferously for Sania Mirza. But instead of intimidating Jelena Jankovic, it served to steel her up.

The 19-year-old from Serbia Montenegro dismantled the Dream Girl of Indian tennis in 48 minutes, winning 6-2, 6-2 to break a million hearts.

Sania looked a shadow of the player who had subdued world number six Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 6-2. She erred more, served four double faults and could win just 33 per cent of her service points. In fact, it wasn't until the seventh game that she held her serve.

The fans saw the sign early as Jankovic raced to a 5-1 lead. But they didn't betray Sania. The stands erupted every time Sania won a point; and when she hit a winner, the screams were ear-splitting. But their support could not work any wonder this time.

Before the clash began, Serena, who Sania had faced at the Australian Open, had asked spectators to throw their weight behind the teen sensation. 'Go for Sania, go for Sania,' Serena told the crowd.

'I was just trying to do a bit too much,' said Sania. 'To be honest, I really don't think I played that bad. She just made me look like that. She wasn't making any errors.'

True, Jankovic gave little away. She won 65 per cent of her service points and 68 per cent of return points.

'I tried to lose as few points as possible so they could cheer less,' said Jankovic, the world number 28, who was playing her fifth quarter-final in her last eight Tier II appearances.

'But still every time she hit a winner' they went crazy. So I had to be really focused. I have never played in front of such a big crowd; and especially with the whole crowd against me. I tried not to let them get to me. But I did want to get mad at them at times,' Jankovic said, laughing.

Jankovic was feeling sorry for the fans though. 'I am sorry for all the Indian fans. They won't have Sania here to cheer for,' she said. 'But I hope they will cheer for me in the semi-finals.'

Jankovic, however, conceded that Sania was playing really well. 'I didn't expect to get through. She was playing really well. But I just had one of those days where I wasn't making any mistakes.

'I was moving really well, trying to be really aggressive and hardly making any errors. Towards the end, though, I relaxed a little and let her make the mistakes.'

Sania rued coming up against an opponent on 'song' but wasn't disappointed.

'It's been a great tournament,' the 18-year-old wild card said. 'This was just one of those matches where your opponent is on song. She played like I played against Kuznetsova. I wasn't missing and she was trying to do too much. The roles were reversed today,' she said.

'It's been a great tournament for me. The year's been great and hopefully it will remain the same,' added Sania, who has lost just three matches this year on the WTA Tour and won 10.

'The fans would be surely disappointed because they wanted me to win. But I tried my best and that's why I am pretty satisfied,' she said.

Sania also said she had no problems with her ankle, which she had injured in the match against Kuznetsova.

'The ankle was fine. I was moving well,' said Sania, who was playing her first WTA Tier II quarter-final.

Next stop for Sania is likely to be Miami.

'I am going home now. I think I am entered in Miami but depends whether I can get in or not because they will be counting my old rankings,' said the Hyderabad girl.

'We'll see that. Otherwise, I am probably going to go to France.'

When someone pointed out that she will not have such fan support in Miami or France, Sania shrugged her shoulders and said it's no big deal.

'You have to get used to it. All these cricketers, when they are playing international matches, have to play in front of thousands. But when they are playing in the Ranji Trophy, there are three people watching them.

'So you just have to get used to it ' there is no big deal. They are going to be there, they are not going to be there,' she shrugged.

Had Sania won, she would have met Serena who was already making plans for the Indian and predicting she could go on to win the tournament. 'It don't look so good,' said Serena when asked about her expected match against Sania. 'She is playing really well and I predict she can win this tournament.'

Serena was also planning to counter Sania's huge fan support. 'I saw a few Americans in the stand today. I hope they will be there tomorrow as well,' she said. 'But I have played against worse crowds. And I will just ask Venus (Williams) to scream just a little louder for me,' she giggled.

But that wasn't to be.

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