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Sania Mirza and Neha Dhupia at the Sania Mirza Tennis Academy

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Sania Mirza On Court with India's Future Stars

Mirza and Bollywood star Neha Dhupia hosted children from the Freedom Again Foundation at the Sania Mirza Tennis Academy

HYDERABAD, India - Playing with a world-champion is a dream come true for sports fans and potential athletes. WTA Future Star 2016 Indian representative, Shivani Amineni, 30 local junior players and 10 children from the Freedom Again Foundation had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be on court with six-time Grand Slam winner and two-time WTA Finals Doubles Champion, Sania Mirza.

Mirza, who is the only player from India to achieve the WTA World No.l doubles ranking, together with 2016 WTA Future Star runner-up, Amineni, and Bollywood superstar Neha Dhupia, led a tennis clinic at the Sania Mirza Tennis Academy in Hyderabad.

Dhupia kicked things off with a fun warm-up session, and Mirza, together with Amineni, demonstrated doubles drills and tactics on court, offering professional tips on a range of themes including match strategy and the winning mentality. Melissa Pine, Vice President of WTA Asia-Pacific and Tournament Director of the WTA Finals, also joined the trio to stage a doubles masterclass.

Hosting the WTA Future Stars clinic in Hyderabad for the second time, Mirza said, "It means a lot to me to be a part of the WTA Future Stars again this year - the WTA Finals in Singapore holds a special place in my heart as I've had some of my greatest successes there, and it is important for me to shine the spotlight on our sport in Asia. The WTA Future Stars masterclass provides the platform to impart my knowledge, encourage more kids in India to lead a healthy lifestyle, and inspire future tennis stars to believe in themselves and achieve their goals."

For the 10 children from Freedom Again Foundation, the WTA Future Stars clinic gave them a chance to learn a range of basic tennis skills, some of them being introduced to the sport for the very first time. For the 30 local junior tennis players, the masterclass provided a unique opportunity for them to gain valuable and professional on- and off-court advice from the WTA stars.

"The children from Freedom Again Foundation have thoroughly enjoyed the invaluable experience today, learning from our local tennis superstar Sania Mirza and rising talent Shivani Amineni. We are heartened by the WTA’s support to conduct the WTA Future Stars clinic here, inspiring our children to pursue their passion, no matter what it may be," said Mushir Mohammed Khan, spokesperson for the of Freedom Again Foundation, a non-governmental organisation that supports the needs of the underprivileged and increase standards of living in Hyderabad through food distribution, monetary and clothes donations and other special projects.

Speaking after the clinic, local junior player Rudransh Raj said, "Sania Mirza is not only the biggest name in our sport in India, but also amongst the world's best for so many years, and to be able to share the same court as her has been an incredible inspiration. I've picked up valuable tips from one of my greatest idols and I'm going to work as hard as I can to become a better player so that I can make my family, and country proud.

After its first stop this year In Bangkok, the WTA Future Stars program continues to succeed as an initiative that aims to promote the sport and bring together players from across the Asia-Pacific region. In the WTA Future Stars tournament, held in conjunction with the BNP Paribas WTA Finals presented by SC Global In Singapore, each country sends two representatives, one each in the U14 and U16 future stars categories, to compete against each other in October. The WTA Future Stars regional outreach will make its next stop in Indonesia in September.

Amineni, 2016 WTA Future Stars alumnus and U16 runner-up, said, "Participating in the WTA Future Stars last year was a great motivation for me to work hard and continue to pursue my passion. Last year's experience was an amazing one for me, and making the final in Singapore has really driven me to push myself harder to achieve my dreams of becoming a professional WTA player."

Tm so happy to be back to be able to share my story with the next generation of WTA Future Stars. I hope to be able to inspire my peers here to chase their dreams to embark on their own journey in the race to the WTA Future Stars finals in Singapore in October later this year".

Speaking after the session, Melissa Pine, Vice President of WTA Asia-Pacific and Tournament Director of the WTA Finals, said, 'The WTA Finals has raised the profile of tennis in Asia-Pacific and along with that, the WTA Future Stars continues to provide an opportunity to touch the lives of youth in this region through the sport. This growth would not be possible without the instrumental support from the WTA's current and future stars like Sania Mirza and Shivani Amineni, and of course our special guest today Neha Dhupia,".

"We are honoured to have them as part of our WTA Future Stars journey. These women have worked hard to achieve success, and we hope that through their stories, we will be able to engage and inspire with these young players in India and the next generation of tennis stars in Asia-Pacific," continued Pine.

To wrap up the day, the WTA will host a cocktail evening for guests at Novotel Hyderabad Airport to promote the 2017 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. The crown-jewel of the WTA calendar will take place in Singapore from October 22 - 29 where the best in women's tennis will compete for the year's biggest prize purse of US$7 million. Players accumulate points throughout the season and the top eight singles players and doubles teams on the Porsche Race to Singapore Leaderboard to compete in the season finale at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

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