Kolkata, Sep 16 (UNI) Wildcard to the main draw of Sunfeast Open 07 Sunitha Rao would rather play third seed Sania Mirza and see if she progresses, than play a qualifier and have the easy way out.
The city was in retro mood with the buggies filing out of Victoria Memorial with Sunitha Rao happily couched in one of them snapping up the favourite moods of light and shade in and around the relic of the Raj.
It was Sunitha who asked the first question. How old is this memorial? Curious and confident that is the nature of this young American-Indian. ''I would rather play Sania Mirza and see where my game stands than have it relatively easy,'' Sunitha chirped, as a platoon of still camera persons kept the buggy company as did the requests and the constant flashing of lights.
Even as she obliged one and all and even posed with her camera, Sunitha told UNI, ''The last time I played and beat her was some years ago. And since then Sania has gone places and risen up the WTA ladder steadily. So it would be a good test of where my tennis stands.'' Then she added with oodles of laughter, ''I have none to blame for the draw. I was the one who picked my name.'' Sunitha ranked 208 in the world will definitely consider herself unlucky as Sania is in sublime form this season having reached her career high of 27 in the world ranking, but in their only previous meeting at the Mumbai hard court in 2002, Sunitha had beaten Sania 6-3, 6-3.
However, Sunitha can't blame anyone as she is the one who picked herself against Mirza. On the flip side, if Mirza pulls out, the American-born-Indian will have the pleasure of playing the lucky-loser in the qualifiers who would then find a spot in the main draw.
The fact remains that Sania Mirza is nursing a wrist injury that has put in doubt her participation in the tournament, though the organizers are hopeful of her recovering in time for the meet.
Asked about her experience in the Fed Cup, Sunitha said, ''It was an amazing experience playing for my country. Before we did not know the players very well, but after getting to know them it seems like we are going to get along very well and do well for India.'' She also played a steller role in Indian blanking Kazakstan 3-0.
Asked if she was happy with the tennis system in place in the country considering the fact that almost the entire field of Indian got eliminated in the qualifiers, she said, ''I would not be the right person to comment on the tennis system here as I spent most of the time in US. But the players would certainly do better with exposure.'' She will be heading home from here and then play a few challengers and ITF.
Asked about the injury problems, Sunitha, said, ''I am fine and healthy now. I am improving on my game everyday and feeling a lot better about my tennis.'' The four buggies meanwhile drew up before the main gate of the Victoria Memorial, the players alighted. They were particularly impressed with the Mughal domes located at the corners and the tall elegant open curved colonnades along the sides of Victoria memorial.
The buggy took a leisurely ride along the outer roads providing a panoramic view of the historical monument and its gardens that are speckled with lovely European fountains and historically significant British statues.
This Sunfeast Open royal journey stopped at the main entrance facing the dome, which carries engravings of the text of Queen Victoria's imperial proclamation speech. The buggy ride also presented a magnificent view of the Vidyasagar Setu set above the Hooghly River as a memorable imagery for the international players to take back home. Among the other stars who went for the ride are Hana Sromova, Alexandria Wosniak, Whitney Jones, Yaroslava Shvedova and Shicvika Burman.