Sania Mirza created history when she became the first Indian woman to enter the third round of a Grand Slam tennis event and set up a dream clash with former World No. 1 Serena Williams at the Australian Open in Melbourne on Wednesday.
It was a red letter day in Indian tennis as Sania, who entered the draw with a wild card, fashioned a stunning 6-2, 6-1 upset win over 84th-ranked Petra Mandula of Hungary in the second round to set a new benchmark for her compatriots.
The best performance by an Indian woman on the Grand Slam so far had been a second round appearance, by Nirupama Sanjeev (Vaidyanathan), who achieved the feat in the 1998 edition of the Australian Open.
In fact, this is the first time any Indian had progressed this far in a Grand Slam since Leander Paes made it to the round of 32 at the US Open in 1998.
"I'm very surprised and really excited," said Sania, who swept the last 10 games as she blew away the 27-year-old Mandula, who had once rose to World No. 30, in just 50 minutes.
"It was a no-pressure match for me. I was confident but I didn't think it was going to be that easy."
Sania will now face the American seventh seed and the 2003 champion Serena in the third round.
Williams easily overcame Dally Randriantefy of Madagascar 6-3, 6-0 in her second round match.
"I'm really looking forward to find out how hard she hits the ball," she said, on the face-off against the title favourite.
The win also gives Sania 66 WTA points and will move her inside the top 130 in the world.
The 18-year-old Hyderabadi girl put up a refined performance unlike in the first round when she made lot of unforced errors.
Sania still seemed to feel the nerves as she struggled with her first serves which averaged only 40 per cent. But whenever she got her first serve right she had a high success rate of 80 per cent.
It was 'steady and wait for the error' game by the Indian teenager. She made no attempts to rush to the net and committed only 13 unforced errors compared to 43 she had against Australian Cindy Watson in the first round on Monday.
Mandula, on the other hand, imploded under a flurry of mistakes including six doubles faults. There were as many as 40 unforced errors from the Hungarian which in a way helped Sania steady her nerves in the first set.
Sania forced 11 breakpoints and converted five of them.
She earned her first break in the fourth and although she dropped serve on the very next game, she bounced back with her second break in the sixth to wrap up the first set.
The Indian played a more controlled game in the second set where she uncorked breaks in the second and sixth to seal the match.