Lexington, Jul 27: Egged on by a huge Indian presence, Sania Mirza overpowered top seed Julie Coin of France 7-6(5), 6-4 to win the $50,000 International Tennis Federation (ITF) Lexington Challenger.
It was second-seeded Sania's only second Challenger tournament in six years as she prepares for the year's last Grand Slam, the US Open in August. Sania's last Challenger was way back in 2003.
The boisterous Indian fans, in the largest paid attendance for the Challenger here, encouraged the 22-year-old Hyderabadi in coming good on big points to edge past her 62nd-ranked opponent.
"For the record turn-out, we owe in no small measure to Mirza's talent, her celebrity status and the passionate fans from her homeland -- students from the University of Kentucky and fans from central Kentucky -- who came out to cheer her on," said the organisers.
A tearful Coin said she felt she was playing a Fed Cup match.
"It felt like I was playing Fed Cup," Coin said . "The Indians were cheering my faults and misses."
The two former top 30-players traded breaks twice to force a first set tie-breaker with Coin racing to a 5-2 lead. But Sania fought back to reel off four points to take the first set.
The 83rd-ranked Indian began the second set by dropping her serve in the very first game, but broke back in the fourth and was serving for the match in the ninth. But Coin rallied from 0-30 to break Sania's serve again.
However, Sania broke back immediately to win the set and the match.
"My biggest strength is that no one can read my forehand�I can hit it anywhere," Sania said.
"Everyone here hits the ball and moves well," she said. "But, winning is all about experience and doing it consistently."
Concurring with Sania, Coin said: "I felt like we both dropped our level of play after the first set and then she surprised me with her big forehand on crucial points."