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Sania's aces too hot for scribes

Last updated on: September 17, 2005 19:03 IST

Breathless rookie scribe to Bob Dylan: Do you like songs with an obvious message or with a hidden message?

Dylan: What?!

Breathless scribe: All your songs have a message...

Dylan: Whoever told you that?!

Now, change the characters, the setting and the subject. Breathless scribe to an army of breathless scribes, songs to tennis, and Dylan to Sania Mirza, India's newest sports sensation.

You will have the same tone, tenor and aggression -- of a person who knows she can do no wrong.

In a 10-minute press conference at the Netaji Indoor Stadium, in Kolkata on Saturday, on the sidelines of the Sunfeast Open tournament, Sania stormed in, served at 200 miles per hour and smashed journos' questions all around a 40 by 30 feet room.

A reporter pointed out that she had made a lot of unforced errors at the US Open, where she lost her fourth-round match to Maria Sharapova.

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Sania's reply, "I'm going to have a lot of unforced errors here too… I compensate them with winners. People have to start accepting that I'm going to lose matches."

Another sample: "What are you doing to improve your serve?"

Sania: "Obviously I'm working on it. Beyond that I don't know how I can explain it to you."

Even before Sania walked into the room in a white Lotto tracksuit top and red track pants, the air was electric.

"Please don't come any closer to the chairs, or we are going to have to take her out of here. No questions beyond tennis please; no reporters or photographers during Sania's practice sessions," the organisers of the $170,000 WTA event told byte-hungry newspersons before the new icon of young India entered the media centre court.

But reporters will be reporters. Out popped a question beyond the court.

Sania, nose ring flashing, was onto it faster than you could say wow: "I think you should keep the questions to tennis here."

There are some things you can teach, and some things you cannot. You can teach a girl to play tennis; perhaps you can teach her to love the game; perhaps you can even teach her to fight the world's best tooth and nail. But you cannot teach an 18-year-old the body language of a star.

Not for a moment did the arms cross, not for a moment was there any fidgeting. Not for a moment was there any sign of being unsure.

When she was asked about her forehand being compared with Steffi Graf's 'Jaws' -- as her forehand was called -- Sania accepted the compliment like Cleopatra would if someone called her beautiful.

"Lots of people say lots of things… That's an honour, considering that Steffi Graf has been my idol forever."

On whether she was living a dream, Sania replied, "I have been playing good tennis. I am thankful to god. I knew that it was going to happen, I believed it was going to happen."

Did she believe she could break into the top 10 women's rankings by this year-end? Sania's answer was a candid: "I don't set any goals for myself."

Is she having it easy because she did not have to play a qualifying round at the Sunfeast Open?

"I don't think anything is easy at this level. I don't think anyone expects me to lose (matches)."

She volleyed a question on the possibility of playing mixed doubles with Mahesh Bhupathi, whose organization, Globosport, manages her, with a cool.

"I was waiting for that one."

Then came the actual winner -- that she had enough on her plate right now and maybe in the future she would consider it. 

And if you were here, you too would feel sorry for the guy who asked Sania why her game was inconsistent: "You think so?" the 18-year-old replied, looking the bloke straight in the eye.

In the sports-crazy city of Kolkata, the Sunfeast Open is rather low-key thus far. Two billboards on the arterial Eastern Metropolitan Bypass is all you would spot from the airport to the venue. The main tournament begins on Monday and Sania plays her first match on Tuesday, 7 pm IST.

And if she plays like she handles reporters, we are in for a feast.

Sumit Bhattacharya in Kolkata