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A court call

On an Indian sojourn, the Uberoi sisters' hope to don Indian colours in future



Shikha (left) and Neha

IT WAS the cry of the motherland that had them homeward bound, to Hyderabad and India. From across the Atlantic have come the tennis playing siblings, Neha and Shikha Uberoi, to the city their father Mahesh hails from. They are also nieces of Bollywood film actor Suresh Oberoi and have a famous cousin in his son Vivek Oberoi.

Starting off as qualifiers in the Women's Tennis Association Hyderabad Open, there came the unhappy prospect of a play-off between the pair, in which Neha, prevailed 6-4, 6-4. Strangely Shikha, placed at 394 in the WTA rankings was subdued by Neha, much lower in the list at 438.

In her first round face-off Maria Kirilenko, Neha displayed an all-court game that could match that of many of the main draw players. The ground strokes were clean, the serves forceful and court coverage impressive. Slim and trim, Neha's agility stood out as did her strokeplay. Unfortunately, her unforced errors worked against her and the Russian ran her down in the end.

An American environment hasn't detached the duo from their native land or its culture. "We are more Indian than many girls living here," they averred. Quite thrilled about having their first international outing in Hyderabad, they find competition in the sport a little hot to handle in America.

Chances of representing India appear more likely and they have sought the United States Tennis Association's permission to allow them don Indian colours. Would they want to settle down here? They'd love to come here as often as possible but continue to live in the US, where a competitive society, they believe, would bring the best out of them.

Coached by Rick Macci, who trains the Williams sisters, Jennifer Capriati and Andy Roddick, the duo aim for the stars, hoping to reach the very apex of women's tennis. Coach Macci, they said, had hopes they would go far. Neha reached the final of the Orange Bowl under 18 tournament in Key Biscane last December, while Shikha has a few junior titles to her credit.

Both have studied in Princeton University, but for the present, studies have taken a back seat. Should they feel the need for it, they may go back to university. Incidentally, Mahesh Uberoi played on this very soil, where stood the old Fateh Maidan courts. After completing schooling in Hyderabad, he went to Indian Institute of Technology, Madras before leaving for the United States to pursue an MS degree. He set up a sofware business, which he sold later.

Content with the progress his daughters have shown, he speaks of them as any proud parent would. Joining the Macci Academy did wonders to their game, which has improved immensely, he says.

A. JOSEPH ANTONY

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