I am back and ready to compete with big girls: Sania

Melbourne: Indian tennis sensation Sania Mirza, who gave a huge scare to former World No 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium in the first round of the Australian
Open today, said she is almost back to her best.

"I think this sends out a very big message as to where I stand now as a tennis player again," Sania said after going down 7-5, 3-6, 1-6 to the seven-time Grand Slams winner Henin in the first round.

"I have not played someone like that for a couple of years now and I showed I could compete against her," she added.

The 24-year-old, who booked a berth in the women`s singles main draw of the Australian Open after going through a tough qualifying route, gave Henin a run for her money today.

Henin had to draw all her trademark fighting spirit to avoid a disastrous first-round departure from the mega-event.

Sania, during her seventh straight Australian Open appearance, came up with some excellent winners and looked almost set to cause an upset when she stunned her 11th-seeded Belgium opponent in a whirlwind first set.

"For me, to know I can match a player like that is something I am really happy about. It gives me a lot of confidence that I am back and I am ready to compete with the big girls."

Having won the first set that lasted an hour, Sania raised hopes of an improbable Indian win but failed to make any impact in the remaining two sets, allowing Henin to come back right into the game and finally seal the match in little over two hours.

"I am playing close to the level I was playing when I was top 30 in the world. I want to take this momentum forward, I am ready to be back where I was," said Sania.

Sania, who once reached as high as 27th in WTA rankings, slipped to 145 because to a recurring wrist injury last season, which resulted in her playing in the qualifying round of the Australia Open.

PTI