Indian sensation Sania Mirza got her first feel of Victoria Park yesterday before this week's Watsons Water Challenge and revealed a new, improved version of the player who rocketed into the world's top 35 last year. Mirza has spent the best part of the past three months at the Sydney training base of Australian legend Tony Roche, working both on her fitness and on the weaker aspects of her game. 'I went to Tony not really just for fitness but with him I was working on my serve and on my volleys and obviously I don't think you can find a better person to work with on those two aspects of my game because he is a master of them,' she said. 'But I was also doing seven hours a day on my fitness so it was pretty gruelling.' Mirza entered 2005 ranked in the mid-200s but a string of superb performances - beginning with making it through to the third round of the Australian Open and including a fourth round appearance at the US Open and her first senior title, at the tournament in Hyderabad - saw her ranking rise to 31. Along the way, she became the poster child for the women's game in her homeland and even managed to do the previously unthinkable - knock cricket off the nation's front pages. But it wasn't all smooth sailing. India's Muslim community first took umbrage at Mirza's playing attire - saying her skirts were too short - and then at her opinions after it was reported she had condoned premarital sex. She later cleared the air over what she says were misconstrued comments. 'I don't think anything can stop them from writing about me whether I am playing or not,' she said. 'It does motivate me when people talk negatively about me, I want to prove them wrong.' An ankle injury sustained while playing in Dubai, and then a back strain in Thailand, brought an early end to her season. But she believes a reworked serving motion while help her when she lines up against the game's big guns - both at Victoria Park this year and then as the season heads Down Under for the first grand slam of the season later this month. 'I had a lot of injuries last year and I was off for four or five months,' she said. 'Both injuries were not because I was not fit but because of freak accidents. I twisted my ankle and then my back gave out so I have been working on my strength and on my serve.' And the Watsons Water Challenge will give her a chance to see how far she has progressed. 'It is a great opportunity for me to test how I am doing against the best players in the world - the Williamses and the Davenports,' she said. 'Right now I don't expect to win but I am here to gain all the experience I can and see if I can match all these players.' Mirza is a sensation in her homeland and she said she was slowly coming to terms with the attention - and the idolatry. 'I don't think anyone expected I would become a tennis player or a role model, but I am fine with it,' she said. 'It is great for tennis in India - it is even better when parents come up to me and say they want their son to become a tennis player because cricket is such a given for boys in India. I enjoy being inspirational for a billion people.' Mirza is drawn to play American Venus Williams in her first singles match on Thursday night after starting her tournament by combining with Kim Clijsters in the doubles tomorrow night. And she knows that whatever she does, a whole nation will be watching her every step. 'Even if I wasn't in tennis I would love to find a way to help people out in whatever way I would and I think this is just a way that I can help the country and help the people,' she said.