Ankita keeps India alive in Fed Cup

Ankita Raina rose to the occasion for India by taming experienced Yulina Putintseva in a thrilling contest to level the Fed Cup tie against Kazakhstan 1-1.

India’s Ankita Raina defeated Yulina Putintseva in a thrilling contest to level the Fed Cup tie against Kazakhstan.   -  SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Ankita Raina continued to excel, but her brave effort in beating the former world No.27 and French Open quarterfinalist, Yulia Putintseva, 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 could not lift the team as Kazakhstan clinched the decisive doubles with minimum fuss in the FedCup Asia-Oceania group-1 tennis tournament at the RK Khanna Stadium here on Thursday.

There was no shame in losing to a team like Kazakhstan which had won the zonal competition last year, and had two players in the top-100. However, it was very clear that Prarthana Thombare had only few sparks of quality play and failed to deliver as a doubles specialist. India
managed to win a mere four games in the doubles, after being blanked in the first set.

In the morning, the wiry 19-year-old Karman Kaur Thandi played better than the first day, but Zarina Diyas, playing the first rubber despite being the best ranked in her team at No.55, was far too consistent to let the Indian get into any rhythm on the way to a 6-3, 6-2 victory.

The latest rankings do not count for nominating the No.1 and No.2 players in the tie, and thus Yulia had the honour of playing as No.1 despite having slipped to a rank of 81.

The 25-year-old Ankita, ranked a modest 253, continued from where she had left against China, with a flawless performance that saw her go up a break after winning the first 6-3.

However, a bunch of consistently bad line calls and poor umpiring saw her lose her grip over the match. For one who had not faced a breakpoint till then, Ankita dropped serve thrice in the second set and was looking down the barrel on dropping serve in the decider, and trailing 1-3.

In a contest that spanned two hours and 26 minutes of intense hitting by both the players, Ankita looked to have found her second wind, as she energetically galloped to the climax. She held serve by saving three breakpoints in the fifth game and broke Yulia in the sixth.

After having suffered a bout of nausea that saw her go to the back of the court to vomit, Ankita played her heart out with all the intensity she could muster on her legs.

Playing some of the best tennis she has ever done, Ankita held serve with ease and eventually broke Yulia in the tenth game, in which there was some drama that culminated in the Kazakh breaking down into inconsolable tears.

Despite the good wins in two singles matches against China and Kazakhstan, the reality is that India has to beat Hong Kong on Friday, to stay in group-1 for the next season. The last two teams will be relegated to group-2.

Even though Hong Kong, the new entrant into the group, lost to Kazakhstan tamely, it gave glimpses of its strength by winning a singles match against China through Ling Zhang. Thus, a fight cannot be ruled out when Hong Kong takes on the host.

The results (league):

Pool-A:

Kazakhstan bt India 2-1 (Zarina Diyas bt Karman Kaur Thandi 6-3, 6-2; Yulia Putintseva lost to Ankita Raina 3-6, 6-1, 4-6; Zarina Diyas & Yulia Putintseva bt Ankita Raina & Prarthana Thombare 6-0, 6-4).

China bt Hong Kong 2-1 (Yafan Wang bt Eudice Wong Chong 6-3, 6-2; Lin Zhu lost to LIng Zhang 3-6, 4-6; Yafan Wang & Zhaoxuan Yang bt Eudice Wong Chong & Ling Zhang 6-1, 6-0).

Pool-B:

Japan bt Korea 3-0 (Kurumi Nara bt Jeong Sunam 6-3, 6-0; Nao Hibino bt Han Na-Lae 1-6, 7-6(2), 6-2; Miyu Kato & Makoto Ninomiya bt Kim Na Ri & Lee So-Ra 6-2, 6-2).

Thailand bt ChineseTaipei 2-1 (Patcharin Cheapchandej lost to Pei-Chi Lee 6-4, 4-6, 3-6; Luksika Kumkhum bt Chieh-Yu Hsu 6-0, 6-1; Luksika Kumkhum & Peangtarn Plipuech bt Ching Wen Hsu & Pei-Chi Lee 7-5, 6-2).