The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sound Sania wins, on and off court
- First Indian to reach a WTA final keeps a cool head at moment of victory

Hyderabad, Feb. 11: There's this trait in Sania Mirza which endears her so well to all ages. First and foremost, confident and full of vibrancy, it's not difficult to fathom why she's the darling of GenX. But it's her striking maturity that helps her win many more friends, off court.

The poise with which she handled today's post-match media conference showed that she has a sound head on strong shoulders.

The childish streak came through while describing her feelings on becoming the first Indian woman to make a Women's Tennis Association (WTA) event final. 'I'm so happy, you know, I don't have words to describe my feelings' doing it in my hometown makes it even more special,' she said.

Were you in tears after the final point' 'No, no, I wasn't crying' I never cry. It was just that I couldn't believe I had won' I was trying to come to terms with reality.'

The crowd factor cropped up. The packed-to-the-rafter stadium was one noisy place, and it wasn't that the audience was a perfectly disciplined lot. The decibel level went up at the wrong moments, often in the midst of a long rally or in between the first and second serve. Didn't that help her, as her opponent (Maria Kirilenko) got distracted'

'Why just Maria, even I was distracted at times' It worked both ways. In fact, she also got some support today,' Sania snapped back.

She has been soldiering on with some niggling injuries this week, could she have won four matches anywhere outside home turf' 'In the first place, I wouldn't have played this week had this tournament not been in Hyderabad' You know, I have never played a tournament with so many injuries. I'm in the middle of a dream run but the focus is to get rid of these injuries.'

The first step she is taking is to pull out of a tournament in Colombia next week. Sania had got a wildcard entry to that $170,000 event.

She did serve eight aces, but had half-a-dozen double-faults as well. 'I was anxious to finish the match off quickly' Didn't want to get into a third set,' was the reply.

Besides parents Imran and Naseema, who were as busy as their celebrity daughter giving interviews, there was another proud person in the stands ' Mahesh Bhupathi, the brain behind Globosport, the management company which runs this event and manages Sania.

Having chewed his nails throughout the latter stages of the second set, Bhupathi was relieved after Sania's screaming service return sealed victory. 'It's not just that she has reached the final, it's the quality of tennis she is playing which stands out,' Bhupathi told The Telegraph.

It was just over a month ago that the doubles ace had predicted that India's next tennis star would be a woman. Well, his assessment of Sania has been spot-on.

'Leander and I won our first title in Chennai (1997) before going on to win many more. I'm praying Sania wins this one tomorrow and hope it will be the first of many,' he said.

The whole of the country's sporting fraternity will be praying for Sania, not just her mentor.

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