The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Test of character for our girl
- The longer the youngster keeps Serena on court, the better

What a big moment in Sania Mirza's fledgling career! Come Friday, she'll be confronting a multiple Grand Slam champion and a former world No. 1 and, that too, on the centre court of a Grand Slam arena ' it doesn't get any bigger than this.

So what's the right way to approach her clash against Serena Williams'

First and foremost, Sania must go into the match with a strategy, and a couple of options. So that if Plan A doesn't work, she can switch to Plan B or C.

It's no secret that Serena's game is based on explosive power. She is the kind of player who wants to blow her opponents off court by hitting the ball hard and flat. I'm sure it will be no different against Sania.

Sania Mirza (top) and Serena Williams

The American will surely try to unsettle and unnerve her young opponent by going for the big shots from the first point.

It's very important for Sania not to get overawed by the occasion. Her basic strategy should be to get back as many balls as possible and try to throw Serena off rhythm. The longer Sania keeps Serena on court, the better it will be for the youngster.

Of course, that is easier said than done. I've faced champions like Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi on the big stage and I can tell you it can be the most nerve-wracking experience of your life. Everytime I played them, I felt the nerves as I walked out of the players' tunnel. Once on court, I relished the ambience and managed to lift my game.

Different players react to a situation differently, that's the beauty of sport. Some use the big stage to their advantage, others succumb to the pressure.

There's no doubt that Sania has got immense talent. What she faces now is a test of character. A lot will depend on how she handles nerves in the early stages of the match. The first three games or so will give an indication of things to come.

Serena is the favourite for Friday's match, but there are a couple of factors which could help Sania. Having won two good matches already, the Indian is obviously in great touch.

More importantly, our girl has nothing to lose simply because no one expects her to win. Sania should stay relaxed, go out there and fire on all cylinders.

Yes, the presence of a coach in the stands would have made a huge difference. But it's financially not feasible to hire a travelling coach at this stage of her career. I couldn't afford one for so many years.

This is not the time to let negative thoughts cloud our minds. Let us back Sania to the hilt and pray she enjoys her moment under the sun. The result will take care of itself.

She has already done well to use her wild card profitably. This is her great opportunity to go one step forward, and show not only the world but also herself that she has what it takes to compete with the very best in business.

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