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January 15, 2006

Sania Mirza


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Sania, please.

Q. Looking back at what happened with you last year, can you just talk about that?

SANIA MIRZA: Well, yeah, it all started here. It's always going to be very special for me to come back here. You know, it's been a phenomenal year. To be honest, I did surprise myself to some extent maybe. I really didn't think it was going to happen so fast. I can't believe it's already been 12 months and I'm back here again. It's been a great year in everything. I've gained experience, moved up in rankings, played some great matches. Lost some, won some. It's been a great year.

Q. What stands out the most from last year?

SANIA MIRZA: Well, there's just not one thing. I think, you know, like I said, just playing against the best and just knowing that you're matching the best. I think that's one thing that has given me so much confidence.

Q. I think you're No. 2 in Asia now. You have a lot of expectations on your shoulders, not just from India, but from Asia. How do you handle those expectations? What are your hopes for this tournament?

SANIA MIRZA: Well, I think as an athlete, not only as a tennis player, you need -- expectations just come with the package. You need to learn how to take it. I think it just in a way motivates me because I know there are so many people backing me. Before it was just India, but now it's the whole of Asia that's backing me. Sometimes you need to shut out some things and go on court and play your hundred percent, give your hundred percent every time you're on court, you know, leave the rest to that day. Really, it's very hard for me to say that every time I step on court I'm going to win every match. You know, that's how it's going to be. I can't do anything. There are some things out of my control, like the expectation part.

Q. Is there a different feeling coming in this year? Last year you weren't expected to do as well as you did. Now the expectations are higher.

SANIA MIRZA: Yeah. Well, I mean, I think just the numbers. I was a wildcard last year. I'm the 32 seed this year. Obviously people are going to expect a lot more from me - even if not more, at least what I did last year. Like I said, you need to shut all those things out. Personally, every time I walk into a tournament, whatever tournament it is, I never go in saying I have to play the final of the tournament. Every time I walk in, it's there to win the first round.

Q. Do you feel this year may be a bigger change for you now that the other players know who you are, how you play?

SANIA MIRZA: Yeah, every year gets tougher on the circuit. You know, I'm no more a rookie any more. Obviously, a lot of people have seen how I play. A lot of people have seen my game. But, I mean, you know, I've worked with Tony in December, the whole of December, made some changes in my game. You know, I'm back fresher. I'm really excited. It's going to be great competition.

Q. You talked about shutting things out. How do you successfully shut those things out?

SANIA MIRZA: Like I said, I think you need to just go out there and play your game. I mean, every time if I step on court, start thinking about what a certain person has to say about every shot that I play, then I don't think -- I'm sure everybody has their own opinion. I think it's just a matter of taking some and not taking some. I think you just need to differentiate which is the better opinion that you need to take. Like I said, expectations are not in my control. That's something I have to live with. That's every sports person's whatever you can call it. They just have to live with it.

Q. You also have to shut a lot of things out away from the court. How difficult is that?

SANIA MIRZA: It gets hard sometimes, like I said, just the way you shut out expectations. You know, I'm there, I'm playing tennis. That's what I'm here for. That's why I'm sitting in front of you all today, because I'm a tennis player. That's what I want to do the best I can for however long I can.

Q. Where did you do the work with Tony?


Q. What specifically did you work on?

SANIA MIRZA: Well, we kind of worked on my serve, changed my action a little bit, worked a lot on my volleys, getting some variation in my game.

Q. Was that at his home court?

SANIA MIRZA: Sometimes. But sometimes we were playing at a club.

Q. Was Roger there at the same time?

SANIA MIRZA: He came in the last week.

Q. Did you have a chance to have a hit with him?

SANIA MIRZA: I just warmed him up. No, not really. Tony is amazing. He was on the court almost seven, eight hours a day. You know, he had to kind of distribute the time after Roger came in. It was like two hours for me, two hours with Roger, then I was back after two hours. He was actually giving personal attention to both of us. Actually, Sophie Ferguson was actually training with me, too.

Q. Do you get home very much? If so, what is the reception like these days?

SANIA MIRZA: Well, I've not been -- I left home 29th of November and I've not been home since. Every time I step back, when I get back, it doesn't mean I'm going to have a great reception. Like last year when I went back from the Australian Open, obviously people were very excited. There's press, there were like all these people. It's amazing, though, like the amount of people that are so proud of you when you go back home, the amount of people that come up to you and say, "I'm proud to be Indian, you're doing a great job for India." It's just amazing that you can bring so many smiles to so many faces.

Q. Are you able to keep your privacy when you're home?

SANIA MIRZA: When I'm in Australia, yeah, it's a bit easier (laughter). Yeah, when I'm in India, it does get tough. I'm going to this place to practice, then I'm back home. Don't really like going out too much because I know I'm always going to be noticed. Again, that's the option I've made and this is what I've opted for. I think every sports person who is successful has to go through this. I'm enjoying it.

Q. Who introduced you to tennis and to sport? India has a strong sporting culture.

SANIA MIRZA: Well, there's a lot of cricket in my family, like from my dad's side. In fact, he used to play top cricket. I had a few uncles who played a lot of cricket. I guess if I was a guy, I'd be playing cricket, too. I love the sport. I was the first one to play tennis. My parents always had a dream that they wanted their child to play a sport, a boy or a girl. They obviously never -- it was always a dream to play on Centre Court at Wimbledon or center court at the US Open or play the Grand Slams. I don't think they ever thought it would come true so quickly. It just kept happening. I just started playing tournaments. I used to go swimming, tennis, do a lot of things. I think they just -- at 6, obviously you don't know what you're best at. My parents had the eye and they kind of realized that I was more talented at tennis than all the other things.

Q. Some countries do have women's cricket teams.

SANIA MIRZA: So does India. We do actually. I think one of the Indian girls holds a world record, Mithali Raj, she comes from my city. Yeah, we do have. But it's not as big as men's cricket.

Q. You weren't tempted to go into that, follow in the family tradition?

SANIA MIRZA: Not really. I used to do everything except play cricket. When I was, I used to play badminton, swimming, tennis. For some very weird reason, I didn't play cricket. I don't know why. I never -- I don't know, I just never -- like till lately, I didn't even know there was such a big team. England was touring India I think a couple years ago. Before that, I didn't even know.

Q. Do you feel you have it within yourself to be a Grand Slam champion? If so, what sort of time frame have you given yourself personally to achieve that?

SANIA MIRZA: That's definitely a dream. I think this is what we're all playing for, is to win a Grand Slam, is to be the best you can. But I really -- it's very hard to say whether I'm going to or when I'm going to. It's just a matter of time. There are a lot of things that count in winning a Grand Slam or even for that matter staying at the position where I am. I mean, the amount of injuries that we have, the amount of pressure we're putting on our bodies, it's a very hard sport. I really don't want to set a time frame when I want to win a Grand Slam. I just hope I stay here at this level or get better as good as I can and stay here for a few years at least.

Q. Do you set yourself a goal for a tournament like this?

SANIA MIRZA: Like I said, every time I enter a Grand Slam or every time I enter a tournament, the first goal is to pass the first round because I feel passing the first round is one of the toughest things to do in a tournament because everyone's fresh. Getting into a tournament, especially when, like you said, there are a lot of expectations. Over here, I'm seeded. Obviously, however much you try to shut it out, there is this thing in your mind because the person you're playing has no pressure at all, she's just playing there because it's her whatever. It's the first round. So I think that's the toughest part.

Q. If you could choose one Grand Slam to win, which one would it be?

SANIA MIRZA: Well, any Grand Slam would be fine (laughter). I don't know. I would just be lucky if I win any Grand Slam. It's very hard for me to choose which one.

Q. When you were younger, playing backyard cricket, cricketers thinking about playing at Lords or the MCG. You were dreaming about US Open and Wimbledon. What were those tournaments for you back home?

SANIA MIRZA: Well, interestingly enough, when my parents decided -- well, when they did see the talent in me when I played tennis, we were holidaying in Bangalore, a city in India. My parents were watching I think a Wimbledon final between Steffi and Conchita Martinez, I think. My dad said, "Can you imagine our daughter playing there one day?" My mom said, "I would give my life if she could play there." When I walked on the Wimbledon Centre Court, I think that was the most special moment for me because it was like a dream come true for my parents.

Q. Were you surprised at the negative side that your higher profile brought last year?

SANIA MIRZA: Not really. I think everything's got its pros and everything's got its cons. The way you take wins you need to take the losses. The way you take all the positive things, you need to take all the negative things. It just goes with -- I think it just comes in a package.

End of FastScripts….

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