Melbourne: Sania Mirza created history as she became the first Indian woman to enter the third round of a Grand Slam tennis event and set up a dream clash with former world No. 1 Serena Williams at the Australian Open on Wednesday.
It was a red letter day in Indian tennis as Sania, who entered the draw with a wild card, fashioned a stunning 6-2, 6-1 upset win over 84th ranked Petra Mandula of Hungary in the second round to set a new benchmark for her compatriots.
The best performance by an Indian woman in a Grand Slam so far had been a second round appearance by Nirupama Vaidyanathan, who achieved the feat in the 1998 edition of the Australian Open.
In fact, this is the first time any Indian had progressed this far in a Grand Slam since Leander Paes made it to the round of 32 at the US Open in 1998. 'I'm very surprised and really excited,' said Sania, who swept the last 10 games as she blew away the 27-year-old Mandula in just 50 minutes. 'There wasn't any pressure on me. I was confident, but I didn't think it was going to be that easy.'
Sania will now face the American seventh seed and the 2003 champion Serena in the third round on Friday.
'I'm really looking forward to find out how hard she hits the ball,' she said.
The seventh seed thrashed Madagascar's Dally Randriantefy 6-3, 6-0 in her second round match.
The win also gives Sania 66 WTA points and will move her inside the top 130 in the world.
The 18-year-old Hyderabadi put up a refined performance unlike in the first round when she made lot of unforced errors.
Sania seemed to feel the nerves as she struggled with her first serves which averaged only 40 per cent. But when she got her first serve right, she had a high success rate of 80 per cent.
It was a 'steady and wait for the error' game by the Indian teenager. She made no attempts to rush to the net and committed only 13 unforced errors.
Mandula caved in under a flurry of mistakes including six doubles faults. There were as many as 40 unforced errors from the Hungarian.
Sania forced 11 breakpoints and converted five of them. She earned her first break in the fourth and although she dropped serve on the very next game, she bounced back with her second break in the sixth to wrap up the first set.
The All India Tennis Association will felicitate Sania on February 12 in Hyderabad adds another report.