Indian teams fare well

THEY are two of the best prospects in women's tennis in the country. Sania Mirza and Ankita Bhambri combined well to pilot India to the fifth place in the junior Fed Cup World Group Final in La Baule, France.

The Indian under-16 team - Kartiki Bhat, Ankita Bhambri, Sania Mirza, captain Sunil Yajaman (standing) - which finished fifth in the junior Fed Cup World Group Final in La Baule, France.-

"To be honest, we didn't expect to do this well, for no Indian team had gone this far. The girls played very well the whole week. It is great to be the fifth best in the world. It is a proud feeling," said Sunil Yajaman, the captain of the Indian under-16 tennis team.

The Indian girls started off with a defeat against the fourth-seeded Russia in the league competition, but did not look back thereafter.

"It was a close match. Ankita had her chances against Ekaterina Kirianova but lost in three sets. Sania also played a close match. Had one of them won her match, I am sure Sania and Ankita would have won the doubles for us, as they played top class in the whole tournament," said Sunil.

It was indeed a splendid revival for the team, as it beat the sixth-seeded Germany and Korea in the league thereafter to take the second place in the group.

That put India in the 5-8 bracket, and the team rose to the climax in a fine fashion beating Argentina and Hungary one after the other to take the exalted fifth place, in the world-wide competition.

Indian girls teams had qualified for the World Group Final only twice before, and had finished 15th and 16th in 1991 and 1988 respectively.

Since Sania had a wealth of experience at the under-18 level, and had also been playing well in the women's circuit tournaments, she had the confidence to pull the team through. Ankita has not been playing as many tournaments as Sania, but has been working on her game diligently.

The under-14 boys' team - Rupesh Roy, Sumit Prakash Gupta, Hemant Bendre (captain) and Jeevan Nedunchezian - which finished seventh in the World junior championship in Prostejov, Czech Republic.-

The third member of the team Kartiki did get a chance to play in the match against Argentina, when both Sania and Ankita won their singles. However, the captain had to depend on his best combination as all the matches were decided by the doubles.

In the Asia-Oceania regional qualifying tournament earlier, India had finished third. To be fifth in the world final was indeed a splendid finish, which should augur well for Indian junior tennis.

The Indian under-16 boys team had missed making it to the world group final of the Junior Davis Cup.

However, both the under-14 teams, girls and boys, made it to the world group final, though they both ended up taking the seventh slot, in the competition held earlier in Prostejov, Czech Republic.

The under-14 girls' team - Sandhya Nagaraj, Sanaa Bhambri, Kawaljeet Singh (captain) and Tara Iyer - which finished seventh in the World junior championship in Prostejov, Czech Republic.-

"We would have been happier to take the fifth position. But we are happy that the team did well," said the coach of the girls' team, Kawaljeet Singh.

Sanaa Bhambri had her limitations and thus could not pull her weight as much as she had done while remaining undefeated in singles in the regional qualifying tournament.

The captain of the boys team, Hemant Bendre was disappointed that Rupesh Roy could not play to his potential in the world competition, after having taken the team to the title in the Asia-Oceania qualifying event in Colombo.

Moreover, Sumit Prakash Gupta had suffered an allergy during his ITF stint in Europe, that saw his whole body being covered with rashes. He thus had to be restricted to playing only the doubles. Jeevan Nedunchezian emerged a surprise packet by winning three of his five singles matches.

"With better planning, we can even take the top three placing," said Hemant.

Yes, with better preparation, the future Indian teams can better the record of the present bunch. It was some effort to get three of the four teams qualify for the world group final, as none had made it the previous year.

The challenge would be to maintain the continuity, which will not be easy.

All said, it was a memorable season for the Indian juniors, and it will be some time before the record is bettered.

Three cheers to the three Indian teams, that captured the world's attention, and the country's imagination.

The results (featuring India):

Junior Fed Cup World Group Final, La Baule, France:

Fifth place: India beat Hungary 2-1 (Ankita Bhambri lost to Barbara Pocza 2-6, 6-7 (3-7); Sania Mirza bt Antonia Xenia Toth 7-6 (7-4), 7-5; Ankita and Sania bt Barbara and Antonia 6-2, 6-1).

Positional match 5-8: India beat Argentina 2-1 (Ankita Bhambri bt Ariela Perez 6-3, 6-3; Sania Mirza bt Andrea Benitez 6-2, 6-0; Kartiki Bhat and Sania Mirza lost to Andrea Benitez and Ariela Perez 6-7 (3-7), 5-7).

League: India beat Korea 2-1 (Ankita Bhambri lost to Jae-Hee Joung 4-6, 5-7; Sania Mirza bt So-Jung Kim 6-2, 6-2; Ankita and Sania bt Jae-Hee Joung and So-Jung Kim 6-1, 6-4).

India beat Germany 2-1 (Ankita Bhambri bt Melanie Harner 6-4, 6-2; Sania Mirza lost to Tatjana Malek 4-6, 1-6; Ankita and Sania bt Carmen Klaschke and Tatjana Malek 7-5, 6-0).

Russia beat India 3-0 (Ekaterina Kirianova bt Ankita Bhambri 3-6, 6-4, 6-3; Elena Vesnina bt Sania Mirza 7-5, 6-4; Olga Panova and Elena Vesnina bt Ankita and Sania 6-2, 1-6, 6-0).

The final placings: 1. Belarus, 2. Czech Republic, 3. Russia, 4. China, 5. India, 6. Hungary, 7. Argentina, 8. Uruguay, 9. Canada, 10. U.S., 11. Germany, 12. Brazil, 13. France, 14. Korea, 15. Chinese Taipei and 16. South Africa.

World junior under-14 tennis final, Prostejov, Czech Republic:

Boys:

Seventh place: India beat Russia 2-1 (Jeevan Nedunchezian bt Alexander Prozorov 6-2, 6-3; Rupesh Roy lost to Pavel Tihekhov 4-6, 3-6; Sumit Prakash Gupta and Rupesh Roy bt A. Prozorov and P. Tehkhov 6-4, 6-2).

Positional match for 5-8 places: Morocco beat India 3-0 (Ayoub Benamar bt Jeevan Nedunchezian 6-1, 6-2; Reda El Amrani bt Rupesh Roy 6-4, 6-2; M. Benhamou and R. El Amrani bt Sumit Prakash Gupta and Jeevan Nedunchezian 4-6, 6-4, 6-1).

League: US beat India 3-0 (Dylan Arnould bt Jeevan Nedunchezian 6-2. 6-3; Marcus-Fugate bt Rupesh Roy 6-4, 6-4; D. Arnould and J. Boyd bt Sumit Prakash Gupta and Rupesh Roy 6-1, 6-3).

India beat Belgium 2-0 (Jeevan Nedunchezian bt Michael Antheunis 6-3, 6-3; Rupesh Roy bt Frederic De Fays 7-6 (7-4), 6-3).

India beat Colombia 2-1 (Jeeva Nedunchezian bt Thomas Estrada 6-1, 6-4; Rupesh Roy lost to Francisco Franco 6-3, 1-6, 5-7; Sumit Prakash Gupta and Rupes Roy bt F. Franco and T. Estrada 7-6 (12-10), 5-7, 8-6).

The final placings: 1. U.S., 2. Spain, 3. Argentina, 4. Canada, 5. France, 6. Morocco, 7. India, 8. Russia, 9. Australia, 10. Belgium, 11. Czech Republic, 12. Brazil, 13. Colombia, 14. Belarus, 15. Korea and 16. China.

Girls:

Seventh place: India beat Argentina 2-0 (Tara Iyer bt Florencia Molinero 6-3, 7-5; Sanaa Bhambri bt Betina Jozami 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (8-6)).

Positional match for 5-8 places: Rusia beat India 2-1 (Ekaterina Makarova bt Tara Iyer 6-0, 6-0; Eugenia Rodina lost to Sanaa Bhambri 3-6, 3-6; E. Kosminskaia and E. Makarova bt Sanaa and Tara 6-2, 6-4).

India beat Brazil 3-0 (Tara Iyer bt Paula Madruga 6-4, 6-1; Sanaa Bhambri bt Teliana Pereira 4-6, 6-3, 6-2; Sanaa and Tara bt T. Pereira and L. Vieira 7-6 (7-4), 6-4).

Netherlands beat India 3-0 (Bibiane Schoofs bt Tara Iyer 6-4, 6-1; Michaela Krajicek bt Sanaa Bhambri 6-1, 6-3; M. Krajicek and B. Schoofs bt Sanaa and Tara 6-2, 6-4).

India beat Spain 2-1 (Tara Iyer lost to Carla Suarez 6-7 (3-7), 4-6; Sanaa Bhambri bt Mayte Gabarrus 7-5, 6-2; Sanaa and Tara bt E. Compostizo and C. Suarez 6-3, 6-2).

Final placings: 1. The Netherlands, 2. Poland, 3. Czech Republic, 4. U.S., 5. Russia, 6. China, 7. India, 8. Argentina, 9. Spain, 10. France, 11. Egypt, 12. Colombia, 13. Canada, 14. Indonesia, 15. Brazil and 16. New Zealand.