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Since 1st March, 1999
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Inconsistent' I don’t think so
- Sania fends off volleys, hits winners off court

Calcutta, Sept. 17: Yes, she makes unforced errors; so what about it'

Inconsistent' Just remember, she has progressed from world No. 141 to No. 34 in nine months.

Sania Mirza was at her best today, earrings shining and eyes glinting as she returned in style whatever the city’s media could throw at her. Some of the questions were obvious ones, but she turned them into winners.

Was she under more pressure because she was playing at home'

No, she said. “There is always pressure, whether it is the US or Calcutta. It doesn’t matter. And wherever I play, people expect me to win.”

Indian sports’ teen queen had made a rather quiet entry into the city late last night, cocooned in security, to play the WTA Sunfeast Open beginning Monday. She practised for about an hour this morning on the newly-laid Greenset courts at the Netaji Indoor Stadium.

“Playing indoors is a new experience for me. I practised for about an hour or so, and found the bounce was good ' though it was a trifle slow ' and I was seeing the ball well,” she said.

The world no. 34 had swept in on time (4 pm) for the media conference, dressed in whites, nose ring in place and diamond earrings flashing, but surrounded by guards who wouldn’t let anyone get within a couple of feet of her.

Some of the questioners, though, tried to get under her skin.

Doesn’t her first-round exit at Bali, after making the fourth round at the US Open the week before, show how inconsistent she can be'

“Do you think so'” she gave it back. “I was 141 at the beginning of the year and am 34 now -- I don’t think that is inconsistent.”

What about the glut of unforced errors'

“What about them'” she countered. “Yes, I made a lot of unforced errors, but compensated them with a lot of winners. I can only keep improving.”

Like her serve, found badly wanting at the US Open. She’s working on it, “doing what she can”.

Of course, her serve was hobbled by a stomach strain in New York. The strain is better and her ankle is holding up.

She kicks off her campaign against a qualifier on Tuesday, but to her that matters little. “At tournaments of this level,” she said, “it makes little difference if you play the top seed or a qualifier. You have to focus and play with intensity. Take it round by round.”

Is she confident of winning here'

“Let’s hope I end up winning. I’ll try my best. But just because I won the Hyderabad meet doesn’t mean I’m going to win this one too. It’s a tougher tournament and I just have to go out there and play my game and hope for the best.”

She is also honoured and excited to be teaming up with Virginia Ruano Pascual, ranked No. 1 in doubles and winner of eight Grand Slam doubles titles.

While on the subject of doubles' any chance of her playing the mixed version with Mahesh Bhupathi in the future'

“In the future, yes. But not now. I’m playing singles and doubles and have a lot on my plate' but, maybe, in the future'”

Back to the present.

“It’s been a dream. A lot has happened in a short time. No one expected me to rise as fast as I have. I believed it would happen. For me, it was just a matter of time.

“I’ve been playing good tennis all year. Getting to the fourth round at the US Open pushed my confidence levels up. I know I can match the best in the business.”

Of course, hasn’t her whipping forehand been compared to the great Steffi Graf’s'

She grins. “I’m flattered and honoured to be compared to her. Let’s hope my career goes the same way hers did!”

Nice if Tuesday provides a start.

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