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January 17, 2008

Sania Mirza


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You got off to a great start and then the match tightened up. How do you assess the game, from your point of view?
SANIA MIRZA: I think, yeah, I think I was playing very well. In the first set obviously I wasn't really giving her chances, and I started off by winning about six points in a row. So obviously, you know, I wanted to get up there and everything.
In the second set it was fine till about 4-All, 40-30. I was serving and I think I made a double fault, if I'm not mistaken, or it was a bad miss or something. And suddenly, we're all quality players, and if you let someone in... I think I played a couple of bad games, maybe a lapse of concentration or whatever.
I think in the third set, she was there. She was in the match till the end. And I think I was just stronger a bit mentally. I hung in there very well.
I mean, the third set was fine. I really can't say. You have tight nerves and all that, so I can't really say I played a bad third set. Yeah, I could have played a couple of good games in the middle of the second set, maybe gone up 4-2, maybe gone up 5-3 or something, and things would have been a bit different.

Q. Did she improve a great deal in those second two sets or did you drop off a little?
SANIA MIRZA: I think a bit of both. I did -- like I said, it was only a matter of a couple of games where I dropped off, and then I was trying to get back, but then she had this confidence happening.
But she -- yeah, she did start playing a lot better. You know, in the beginning she was missing a lot of tape. I mean, on the backhand is a very hard shot. She hits it very hard and very flat. And she kept hitting it on the tape. And then suddenly when she -- obviously, when you get confidence, all those tapes start coming in.
I think that's exactly what happened. And then after that, she was in the match. And I kind of let her in in a couple of games where I should have tightened up instead of, you know, maybe gotten a couple more first serves in or something like that.

Q. Seemed like you were playing a little bit conservative in that third set?
SANIA MIRZA: Yeah, because, I mean, there was no point. It was windy to start off with, and the wind kept picking up. As the match went on, it kept getting windier. And it wasn't like it was wind from one side to another; it was swirling around. It was not easy conditions to play in.
It's not really -- I know it's my game to just go for it and go for my shots, but I think at the end of the day that's something I'm trying to improve on, is to be smarter while playing in these conditions. When a player you're playing has nothing to lose, you know, you're expected to win, and she's already come back from 6-1, won the set, and up 3-1, I think it won't be the smartest thing to just hit your way through it.
And I had to try to work my points. And I think that's what I did. I played a solid game at 3-2. I think that's where everything changed. I came to the net a little bit. I had to take a chance, hit an inside-out backhand on the first serve return. I had to take those chances. But I think on the whole, I played a solid third set, like, you know, at least from 3-1. Obviously in the first four games, she's not really -- she started serving much better, she started hitting a lot harder and a lot deeper with my accuracy.

Q. It's a different position for you now the last couple of Slams where you're going in seeded as a favorite mentally because you're actually expected to be winning those matches?
SANIA MIRZA: Yeah, of course. I think it's much harder because when you're the better player on paper, I think of course you're expected to win by everyone, but even the other person you're playing, she's just coming in thinking, Right, I just have to go for my shots. If I get them, I get them.
And here I am playing third set with someone who's 31 in the world, or if not I think, you know, she's like, Yeah, well, I had a good tournament. I qualified and made second round.
That's just a mental way to look at it. But I think it's very good for me right now to come through matches like this, because I just stayed mentally tough. And I think winning a 7-5 in the third against anyone, you have to be mentally very tough.
So I'm just happy that I came through.

Q. Do you approach the next match in any different way?
SANIA MIRZA: Yeah, I'm just going to go for it. I have nothing to lose. I'm very excited, actually, to play Venus. I think the last time I played her was in Stanford a couple years ago, and I haven't played her since. And obviously I feel like I'm playing well, and I'm playing better tennis than I was a couple of years ago. And so is she. But, you know, it's -- yeah, I'm very excited to play her, and rest up tomorrow.

Q. Venus said she expected you to be very aggressive. She said you're an aggressive type of player.
SANIA MIRZA: Well, it's not a secret anymore. I think everyone knows that by now, that I like to go for it. And I think she was surprised that I was not as aggressive. So I think it's a given because -- yeah, I've been on the circuit long enough for people to know what's good and what's not good in my game, relatively.

Q. You must be very encouraged the way you started this season.
SANIA MIRZA: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, I lost a couple of very close three-setters at the Hopman Cup. I wanted to come through those, obviously, because I think it's always good to win three-set matches. For your confidence mentally and physically, as well, you feel like you become stronger. But, yeah, I think third round of the first Slam is not a bad start to the season. I feel good. And I won a couple of matches last week in Hobart, as well.
Yeah, I'm looking forward to it. I play Fed Cup, get a lot of matches in there next week after here.

Q. This is sort of a long time since you played her. It was 2005. Can you bring something else to the table now because she's not only powerful, Venus, but she's fast. Her defensive game is good. The offense is there.
SANIA MIRZA: She's one of the best players in the world. I think it's -- to be honest with you, I think it's -- you can't really pick and say, Right, so this is her weakness and this is what I'm going to attack. In my match today, I would say, Right, every time I'm under pressure, I'm going to hit to her forehand, and there's more chance of her missing her forehand than her backhand. Can't really do that with Venus.
And I think the key for me is going to try and stay aggressive. Because if I let someone like that, like Venus, who is a very overpowering person on the court, you know, let them take charge, then I'm going to have no chance. So I think my -- my first aim, I mean, I'm not even thinking about the match yet, but the first thing that I'm thinking about is that I want to try and get a good start again.
I mean, the first couple of games, not try and go down 3-Lve or 4-Love or 5-Love; just try and get on the board and try and get a good start.

Q. Do you have to establish your forehand against her? Like today, your opponent was playing your backhand, backhand, backhand, and you were consistent enough. Against Venus, if you don't have the big weapon, it might be a little more problematic.
SANIA MIRZA: Of course. Of course. I'm going to try and have to run around a lot more balls. Obviously I have to use my forehand a lot more. But, you know, I mean, everyone has weaknesses. And I'm sure Venus does, too.
So let's hope -- I mean, I haven't played her, like you said, in a couple of years now. So to be honest, I'm just looking forward to the match. I'm very excited to play her. She's a great girl. We were just talking when I went inside.
So, yeah, she's -- I'm just excited to play her. Probably play on a big court and in front of a big crowd. Three years ago when it all started I played Serena and now I'm playing Venus in the third round, so...

Q. You were talking the other day about trying to maintain focus because of everything happening, and you did a decent job last couple days. If you go out on a big court against Venus, that's pretty critical, too. You have to put everything behind you?
SANIA MIRZA: I think at the end of the day when you go out on the court, yeah, it's great to play -- if you play on Rod Laver, it's great we're playing in front of so many people. I think at the end of the day, when you go out on the court, it's you, the ball and the opponent. You really don't care who else is sitting, who else is watching.
You have to -- I mean, I think that's -- I think I'm very pleased by winning a match like this today because of the fact that, you know, because a lot has been happening in the last couple of weeks off the court. And I just feel -- I was mentally still strong enough to come through a match like that. I mean, I was down 3-1, 30-All. You know, I could have just said, You know, I'm just mentally not there. It would have been a good excuse even for myself. But I didn't want to do that. I wanted to come through. And I proved to myself that I'm mentally strong enough to do that.
So I've done it a couple of matches, and hopefully I can continue to do that.

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