Young Hyderabadi hopes to step into Sania's shoes

Prerna Maitreyi, a 17-year-old Hyderabadi, hopes to deliver in Sania Mirza's absence at the Bangalore Open

updated: February 08, 2008 08:57 IST
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Sania Mirza may have opted out of the Bangalore Open, but another Hyderabadi - Prerna Maitreyi - hopes to get past the qualifying rounds when the tournament gets underway next month.

The 17-year-old is 678 on the WTA rankings, but experts say she is another Sania in the making.

"My aim is to get into the top 300," says Prerna. "I am practicing hard for it."

It was at the Hyderabad tennis stadium where Prerna won her first major title - the Hyderabad Open in 2005.

Ever since, every morning and evening, scores of young girls and boys turn up here, hoping to emulate Sania one day. Like in the case of sisters Moulika and Bhavana. For the last two and a half years, the tennis court has been their second home.

Says Moulika, an under-12 player, "I like this game very much. First I thought it was very hard. Now as I am playing, I find it easy."

"I want to become like Sania," said Moulika.

S Narendranath, Sania's former coach, says the Sania effect is more visible in her hometown than in any other city. Nearly 3000 youngsters in Hyderabad are playing tennis now. Over 60 per cent are girls.

"Five or seven years down the line, there will be a number of Indians knocking to play at the Grand Slams," Narendranath says.

The unfortunate aspect, however, is that 80 per cent of these players choose academics over sport once they reach Class X, leaving just a handful to pursue their dream to be the Sania of the next decade.