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March 23, 2006

Sania Mirza


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. What a see-saw, long, exciting match.
SANIA MIRZA: Yeah, I guess it's a bit tough when you're not really playing the best tennis and the other girl is just, you know, playing some unbelievable shots. She came up with some great shots, some matchpoints. It could have gone everywhere till the last point.
But, you know, I guess my forehand deserted me and that's my strength. If I can't hit forehands inside the court, I don't know, I lose like 75% of my game.
So I guess that was what went wrong really. I mean, I served well. She was -- hats off to her, though. I mean, she hung in there and she was playing some great tennis.
Q. Had you ever seen her play before?
SANIA MIRZA: I hadn't even seen her before (smiling).
Yeah, I mean, she's young and she's a great player. I'm sure we're going to see a lot more of her. It's obviously hard when you're playing a person who's playing so well in the first round. She's playing with no pressure and she's just going for it; on matchpoint, she's going for winners. I was just trying to, since I couldn't hit winners off my forehand, trying to put the ball in play.
So, you know, I guess I was missing on those couple of winners where I should have hit on the matchpoints that I had.
Q. You just received Newcomer of the Year, I believe, which I know is a wonderful honor, but it is about last year. You're in this year. So much happened for you last year. How can you recapture some of that momentum now after this first part of the season which I know hasn't been what you would have wanted?
SANIA MIRZA: Yeah, I mean, the second year on the tour is obviously much tougher than the first. Everyone knows how you play and everyone knows your weaknesses and your strong points. They all come in with a game plan.
I guess when you -- in the first year, you're a rookie and every win that I have is a surprise. But today, when I went into the match, obviously everyone expected me to win the match, but that wasn't the case last year.
I guess that's the same for her this year. If she becomes full-time, then next year it's going to be harder.
Q. It seemed like a lot of the crowd was yelling "Anna" a lot. How did that affect you? Did that affect you?
SANIA MIRZA: Well, you know, you need to block everything out. I guess, you know, she's young and everyone wants her to play well. I guess a lot of people like underdogs and, you know, I mean, what the hell, she played great.
Yeah, I'm used to playing with the crowd on my side, but it doesn't really affect me as much because you're just there and you've got to play your game.
Q. You made quite a lot of use of the challenges. Talk about that.
SANIA MIRZA: Yeah, I mean, it's great. It felt really nice. Just I think sometimes in the important points you do get the points, like I did on one of them, just scraped the line.
So it's pretty good, and I think it's a great rule, and hopefully it will continue for the years to come.
Q. I have some non-match questions. These are things you probably talked a million times about, but what kind of pressure do you feel having so many people from India watching you, and the expectations on you? How do you handle that?
SANIA MIRZA: Well, you've got to do what you've got to do. I mean, expectations are always going to be there, there's always going to be pressure. It increases by the day. You need to learn how to cope with it. Sometimes you feel it and sometimes you don't. You just learn. By this match, I've learned a lot. Every day you learn.
I guess that I've matured a lot as a tennis player over the past one year, and my expectations have increased. I'm sure a lot of people will be disappointed tomorrow and after this match, but what can you do? It's not the first match that I've lost, and it's definitely not the last. So I'm going to lose some close matches, I'm going to win some.
Q. A lot has been made, and again it's been written quite a bit, about you've been criticized by people back home about sometimes the attire you wear. How do you deal with those kind of issues, when people make a big deal about what you choose to wear?
SANIA MIRZA: I mean, I keep stressing I'm just here to play tennis. That's what I'm going to do the best I can. You know, when I retire, I'm sure no one will remember me. So, you know, it's just a matter of a few years and I just have to focus on my game and I think try and block out as much as possible.
Q. Some people see you as a symbol of independence. I mean, do you even look at it in those terms? There are people who say you are sort of leading the way.
SANIA MIRZA: I guess I'm just going to repeat my answer: I'm just here to play tennis, and I'm going to do whatever I can to be the best that I can as much as I can.
Q. In India, what is it like when you walk out on the street?
SANIA MIRZA: Well, it's hard. I mean, it's hard to, you know, hard to walk out. In India usually I don't walk anyway so (smiling)...
Yeah, little things like my cars are pretty dark tinted and stuff. You just have to get used to it, I think. Sometimes I like being outside India where there are not too many Indians, which is very rare (smiling).
But I, you know -- it's fun. I'm enjoying every moment of it.
Q. Do you have a bodyguard there for your protection?
SANIA MIRZA: Uh-hmm, uh-hmm.
Q. Is that something that -- how do you deal with that?
SANIA MIRZA: I think it's better to be safe than sorry. So, you know, it's just a precaution. Obviously, all that's gone on in the past, you know, we just thought maybe we should just have someone.
Q. Was it hard to have to give up the match with Shahar Peer earlier in the year? I know you wanted to play.
SANIA MIRZA: Well, I mean, that wasn't the reason we didn't play together. That's all I have to say. You know, we're great friends, but that wasn't the reason we didn't play together.
Q. What do you do to relax? What do you do to get away from the pressure and intensity?
SANIA MIRZA: Sleep. I don't know. I mean, yeah, I love the fact that when you sleep, you forget about everything, about your worries and about your pressures and about even happiness for that matter. You know, you go into this other world. I love the fact that you can block out everything for a couple of hours.
Q. Do you like movies? Do you like television?
SANIA MIRZA: Yeah, but, I mean, it's not that every moment of my life I'm thinking, "I've got pressure, I've got pressure." Whatever I do when I'm not on the tennis court, you know, I'm doing all kinds of things.
Q. What?
SANIA MIRZA: Well, I mean, just like any other 20-year-old. I'm not a party person, I guess that's the difference. I'm just a stay-home person. If I have a day off, I'll probably wake up at 12 in the morning and, you know, just relax and have some friends over or something.
Q. What do you want to achieve more than anything else? What would you like to be able to accomplish in the next few years?
SANIA MIRZA: Well, you know, I think I shouldn't put any numbers on my - my vocabulary, I'm losing it, sorry - on my goals. I just want to say that I'm going to try as much as I can, and hopefully injuries not being a major part of it, which I've been injured quite a lot in the past year and a half. I'm still injured.
So, you know, I would love to be No. 1 in the world but, you know, even if I go down as 31 as my highest ranking, I'll still be satisfied.
Q. Do you see yourself as a role model for young girls, whether it's India or anywhere?
SANIA MIRZA: I don't know. I mean, you know, obviously, the way the expectation and pressure, the responsibility, because you know people are looking at you and they want to be like you. It feels nice that people are inspired by you. You know, just the fact that there are so many girls picking up tennis racquets now is something amazing in India.
So it feels really nice, and hopefully I can keep up to their expectations.
Q. When you go back home, are you mobbed? Do you need bodyguards?
THE MODERATOR: That's been asked already.
Q. I just had a question, you have quite an elaborate brace.
SANIA MIRZA: Yeah, I injured my wrist three -- four weeks ago and injured my elbow playing in India, so I need a new arm (smiling).
Q. You wear it to practice also then?
SANIA MIRZA: Yeah, I always have to have it on because I -- well, not to get into details, I just hurt the back of my elbow so it hurts every time I serve.

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