Sunday, July 27, 2008

May take Sania Mirza weeks to get back killer forehand

When Sania Mirza embarks on a quest for Olympic glory in August, even the prayers of a billion Indians may not be enough to see her through.

The golden girl of Indian tennis hasn't quite regained the form that took her to number 27 in the WTA rankings in August 2007. But it's not just a question of finding her rhythm.

After wrist surgery in April this year, Sania only returned to the Tour a fortnight before Wimbledon. And her forehand, considered one of the best in the game, is no longer the formidable weapon it used to be.

That's something even Sania's father and mentor Imran Mirza admits.

"I think Sania is still not playing at the level she was at before the injury. Basically, she still does not have the awesome power and control in her forehand that made her a top 30 player," Mirza told the Indian Tennis Blog on Sunday.

The vagaries of the ranking points system have ensured that Sania stays in the Top 40(Update: She fell 15 spots to number 50 on Monday) but the truth is the 21-year-old hasn't won consecutive matches in the five events she played since her comeback.

Imran Mirza urges patience.

"I think it may take a few more weeks or even months before she gets that venom back in her forehand although it is gradually improving."

"However, her fitness level and other aspects of the game have improved considerably although these are not good enough without her world-class forehand to win consistently at the highest level."

That's certainly not good news for those hoping for a medal-winning run from Sania at the Beijing Olympics. But there's hope yet in the women's doubles event, where she partners Sunitha Rao.

Currently in Stockholm for the $145,000 Nordea Nordic Light Open, Sania will return to India for a few days before proceeding to Beijing. After the Olympics, she'll rush to the United States for the $600,000 Pilot Pen event in New Haven, a week before the U.S. Open kicks off on August 25.

But Mirza senior knows it may be some time before Sania can live up to fans' expectations and start winning more matches.

"We need to be patient with her game as of now."

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