Sania Mirza's dream run at the Australian Open might have come to an end, but her Melbourne exploits are just the beginning of things to come, the teen tennis sensation's father and coach believe.
Coach Krishna Bhupathi said Sania's performance against world number seven Serena Williams at the Vodafone Arena on Friday forced him to reassess his opinion about the 18-year old's potential.
"My immediate thought after watching her today is that Sania is made of much higher talent and ability than what we had ever thought of before," Bhupathi said from Bangalore.
Serena played the big points better: Sania
Sania's father Imran Mirza, who is on Haj pilgrimage with his wife, Nasima, said his daughter more than lived up to expectations.
"I am really very proud. Not only because she played so well against Serena but even reaching the third round itself was not a joke," Mirza said from Mecca.
Mirza, a cricket player himself in his youth, said Sania has already achieved most of the tasks set for her in the first year on the seniors' circuit.
"We wanted to make it inside the top-100 in the rankings by the end of 2005, but I am told she has already reached 129. I am sure she will be able get into the 100 much earlier than we had hoped," he said.
Mirza said it was tough for him and his wife to be away from their daughter but it could not be helped.
"We did not expect this. When the wild card was announced we had already decided on this pilgrimage. We also have our priorities; it is an important pilgrimage that we are supposed to undertake once in our life," he added.
Both Mirza and Bhupathi said Sania's next big goal would be a direct entry to the main draw of the French Open and Wimbledon this year.
"Definitely, that is the priority. She has not too many points to lose in the next few weeks," Bhupathi said.
"Getting her wild cards in other tournaments is another thing to work. Mahesh [Bhupathi] is working on that and where we don't have the pull, we use the wild cards of our home tournament [the Hyderabad Open] to get a wild card in exchange for Sania.
"A good run at Hyderabad should help her enter Wimbledon," he added.
Mirza and Bhupathi felt Sania is well taken care of on the financial and coaching side, and now immediate attention must be on removing the chinks in her armour.
"Her body strength needs enormous improvement, as also the reaction time and recovery from stroke after stroke. Her serves too need to improve," Bhupathi said.
Mirza said, "We have always known what she is capable of. Now that she has done so much, she must work harder to achieve what is expected of her."