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The Rediff Interview/Shikha Uberoi
December 14, 2004
It was an ordinary evening at the US Open in September 2004, when Venus Williams was to play a lowly qualifier at the Arthur Ashe stadium. Not exactly a match that will set one's pulse racing.
But before Venus even warmed up, she was down 1-4, staring at a second round exit.
Venus, using experience and skill, won in straight sets 7-5, 6-1 but tennis had glimpsed at the talent of a young, rising star.
Shikha Uberoi lost that evening but she won the hearts of the huge gathering at the Arthur Ashe stadium. It was no surprise that she received a standing ovation from the crowd and drew praise from tennis legend John McEnroe.
This year has been a smooth ride for Uberoi. She has broken into the top 150 (No 158) after having started the year ranked No 380 in the world. Her singles record of 49-27 in 2004 speaks volumes of her talent and skill that the world will witness.
The 21-year-old lass caught up with Contributing Sports Correspondent Harish Kotian in Mumbai, where she was attending a promotional tennis event.
You have had a very good year. You broke into the top 200 in September. You are ranked 158. What was the secret behind such a successful year?
It was a lot of mental maturity. I started off winning two $10,000 ITF tournaments in a row in Texas, and then in Oklahoma.
I worked my way through the $50,000 tournament in the summer that led up to the US Open. I had an unbelievable US Open, where I received a wild card in the qualifying and then won three matches to qualify.
I won the fourth match, which was the first round match of the main draw of the US Open, where I beat world No 56 Saori Obata (Japan). In the next round I was up 4-1 against former champion Venus Williams and then led 5-4 in the first set at the Arthur Ashe stadium. It was so incredible.
An unbelievable US Open capped off the summer. That is what I can credit my huge jump in rankings to.
You had a very tough match with Venus in the second round. Was it sad losing, after having fought so hard? Or were you happy with your performance in your maiden appearance in a Grand Slam?
It was a combination of both. I played well. I had an unbelievable US Open. But the fact that I was up 4-1 and had a chance to beat her in the first set makes me feel a little heavy in my heart.
I am looking forward to the next tournament. It was uplifting to know that I can do so well even though it was my first Grand Slam tournament and that I had the ability to do well and maybe become a great champion.
How was it facing former world number one and champion Venus, who happens to be your friend, in front of a big crowd at the Arthur Ashe stadium?
She is my idol. Every time I meet her and talk to her. It was not a big deal for me. I went up there, did my thing and tried to beat her. She tried to do the same and was successful. So it was not really a big deal for me.
Even though you lost to Venus, you got a huge ovation from the crowd. In fact you said, 'It was the greatest party of my life. I've never had so many people cheering for me ever before in my life.' How special was it?
I wish all have such an opportunity to perform in front of so many people, all of whom want you to do well and want you to win. They were enjoying every minute of your match just as you are.
It's a really difficult feeling to describe. But I want to replicate that feeling many times over, win more so I can keep playing for all the people more and more.
It's amazing, fun, exciting, exhilarating and thrilling -- all at the same time.
You will represent India in the Federation Cup next year. How close is India to your heart?
It is my heart. I am Indian and India is in my heart. I hope to be in India's heart soon.
You beat your sister Neha in the final of the $10,000 ITF tournament in June 2004? How was the feeling? Were you happy?
We play each other quite a bit. That was a bit interesting. It's difficult to play your sister, but you have to get over it. Neha and I have got over it. We really battled it out.
For the first few times, it was tough. But we play each other quite a bit, so we know how to play each other, treat each other like somebody else.
We play each other all the time in practice. We are so competitive with each other in everything we do, it's like another opportunity to beat someone.
Do you give a lot of importance to doubles? You have moved up the doubles ranking this year.
Doubles is extremely important. I want to win Grand Slams in doubles as well. I love to volley even in singles. Doubles is so much fun. It's a different game. We are learning the ins and outs of it. We are trying to improve our doubles a lot. We will work on it.
How important a role have your parents played in your career?
They are the backbone of my life. If it wasn't for them, I don't know where I would be, what I would be doing. I cannot imagine my career without them. They are the essential factors in it.
They are pivotal in everything I do. They are my guidance, my strength and my support team.
What are your goals for the upcoming season?
I will play in the qualifiers for the 2005 Australian Open. I would like to qualify, go ahead and win the Australian Open.
I will try to get into the main draws of other Grand Slams. My goal is to win the Grand Slams. I would like to win all the four Grand Slams. I would like to be the number one player in the world. Everyday that's my goal.