x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Dubai Tennis Championships: US-India pair advance to another final

Sania Mirza and Bethanie Mattek-Sands beat Cara Black and Anastasia Rodionova to reach their second final in four tournaments this year, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands of USA, left, and Sania Mirza of India celebrate defeating Cara Black of Zimbabwe and Anastasia Rodionova of Australia in their doubles semi-final at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Friday. Julian Finney / Getty Images
Bethanie Mattek-Sands of USA, left, and Sania Mirza of India celebrate defeating Cara Black of Zimbabwe and Anastasia Rodionova of Australia in their doubles semi-final at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Friday. Julian Finney / Getty Images

DUBAI // Sania Mirza and Bethanie Mattek-Sands believe they could be the pair to beat at the top tournaments this year as they gain in confidence and become thicker friends.

The pair beat Cara Black and Anastasia Rodionova 6-2, 7-5 on Friday to reach their second final in four tournaments this year. They won in Brisbane last month, defeating the world No 4 pair of Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Kveta Peschke for the title.

"When we started this year, our goal was to try and win as many tournaments as we can," said Mirza, who along with Mattek-Sands, will meet Katarina Srebotnik and Nadia Petrova in Saturday's doubles final in Dubai.

"We believe we can be a very good team, maybe the best team in the world. So that's our goal – trying to do well in slams and winning slams. And if we keep playing like that, I don't see why we can't achieve those goals."

Mirza, ranked No 16 in doubles, and Mattek-Sands played as a pair at eight tournaments last year, winning the title in Brussels, and the American believes they have grown since 2012.

"I think we are better friends," said Mattek-Sands, who is world No 30 in doubles. "Our games are really meshing together. We've played enough matches and communicate well enough that we know who is covering what. We don't have to force it.

"So I think that's what you are seeing out there. We are really covering each other well, doing our plays well.

"I think even before the matches, we have good strategy, we have our game plans and I think the more we do that and get wins, the more confident we'll get."

Mirza remains one of the most prominent sporting figures in India, and is only 26, but injuries have plagued her over the past five years. She has virtually given up hopes of playing singles and is banking on the doubles game to sate her passion for tennis.

"I have had three surgeries over the last five years and it's been tough," she said. "I had to make a choice about whether I want to play another year of tennis, where I push my body, or whether I want to play four more years of tennis. I love tennis too much to leave it in one year."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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