Ankita Raina confident of the journey to the World Group

Ankita had beaten Yulia, a two-time French Open quarterfinalist in the FedCup last year, and was confident of a repeat. But, the Kazakhs were better prepared this time.

Ankita Raina competing in the FedCup tennis tournament in Astana, Kazakhstan.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Ankita Raina did assert her new found confidence, but the Indian women’s team came short of its target, after strongly believing that it was well prepared to qualify from the Asia-Oceania group-1 FedCup tennis competition in Astana, Kazakhstan.

The key to those aspirations lays squarely on the strong shoulders of Ankita Raina and her athletic feet, especially in the key contest against world No.47 Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan.

Ankita had beaten Yulia, a two-time French Open quarterfinalist in the FedCup last year, and was confident of a repeat. But, the Kazakhs were better prepared this time.

"Lately, Yulia has been playing well, with good results on the WTA Tour. But, I went into the match thinking I would win. Somehow, I was not able to maintain the length in my strokes in the first set. I got better in the second, but a few points in the tie-break cost the match. Karman also played a good match against Zarina Diyas. We were more positive, had more belief and fought well as a team", said Ankita, as she looked back at the tie against Kazakhstan.

India had fought hard in both the singles and doubles the earlier day to clinch a nerve-wracking victory against an unfancied Thailand, while Kazakhstan had a rest day.

"We are used to playing three sets in singles and doubles in one day, and play again the next day. So, I don’t think that can be an excuse. Yes, Kazakhstan was fresh", Ankita conceded.

Karman was injured and could not play the tie against Korea for the third place. Ankita won her singles but after Mahak Jain’s fighting three-set loss in the first singles, India lost the decisive doubles.

"We were unlucky that Karman got injured. Mahak fought hard. Lately, in doubles, I have played ad-court with Karman and other partners. I had to switch sides with Prarthana (Thombare) as her strength is ad court. Maybe Vishal (Uppal) sir and Ankita (Bhambri) madam can comment better on the switch. But, we as a team played our heart out. Our captain and coach were very motivating and we combined well as a team’’, remarked Ankita.

India did miss Rutuja Bhosale and Pranjala Yadlapalli owing to injury.

"We not only missed Rutuja and Pranjala, but also Sania (Mirza). I have played with her and we all know what her presence can do. Mahak and Riya were ready for the task. Now, you can see we have 6-7 players including Zeel Desai, who can play any role in the team. Am sure, all of us will perform well internationally", said Ankita.

After Ankita Rain’s bronze medal in the Asian Games and the doubles WTA title with Karman Thandi, Indian women’s tennis does look quite robust.

"All of us are working hard to perform at the WTA level. Once we start doing it, mark my words, India will be in the World Group in the near future", said Ankita.