Karman, Rutuja inspire confidence ahead of Fed Cup

Karman Kaur Thandi and Rutuja Bhosale, not seen in action for some time due to injuries, were stroking well and moving energetically on court.

Members of the Indian Fed Cup tennis team at the end of a training session in Delhi on Wednesday. From left: Rutuja Bhosale, coach Ankita Bhambri, Karman Kaur Thandi, captain Vishaal Uppal and Sowjanya Bavisetti.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

The warmth of the sun, a pleasant change from the gloomy winter weather, was only matched by the bright smiles of the players, as they went about the task of sharpening their game for the Fed Cup women’s tennis event, at the DLTA Complex on Wednesday.

Karman Kaur Thandi and Rutuja Bhosale, not seen in action for some time, were stroking well and moving energetically on court, quite pleased to have got rid of the pain and aches.

"Am really happy, to be playing without any pain. Am physically better, and getting stronger. Need match play, and see how the body copes with three sets, in terms of endurance’’, said Karman, after a good workout.

Coach Ankita Bhambri pointed that it was a rare situation when players like Karman and Rutuja were going into the Fed Cup without having played a match this season. Both have been grappling injuries of the shoulder, but have been diligently taking care of their fitness.

Echoing similar observations, Rutuja also said that she had to take time off to strengthen her serving shoulder.

"Am really excited to be back in the Fed Cup team. It is a great chance to play against a lot of good players, and do well. I hope to stay healthy and play good’’, said Rutuja, the former Asian junior champion and national women’s champion, who strengthened her tennis by studying in the US.

Even as there was suspense about Sania Mirza’s recovery from the calf injury, Karman stressed that the former world No.1 star’s return to the team was very helpful because of the multiple Grand Slam champion’s remarkable experience at the highest level.

With India scheduled to play five teams in the six-team round robin format, against China, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, Korea and Uzbekistan, it will be a good opportunity for the players to sharpen their game.

"With two teams qualifying, there is a lot better chance", said Karman, as she compared the situation in the past when only one team from the zone qualified for World Group-2 play-off.

The reigning national champion Sowjanya Bavisetti, who is a reserve, also trained with the team, with coach Ankita and captain Vishaal Uppal, providing robust support, even on court whenever required.

The team will have another session of training on Thursday, before its departure to Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan, for the Asia-Oceania group-1 tie scheduled to be played indoors from February 4 to 8.

Ankita Raina and Riya Bhatia, the top two players in the team, with their ranking, were busy, competing in the $25,000 ITF women’s tournament in Thailand, and may join the team directly in Kazakhstan.

"I was doing well before going to the US. I had to start from scratch on return. The injuries have kept me back. If I stay fit, physically and mentally, there is a good chance of me getting to the next level. I am confident of doing it’’, said the wiry Rutuja, who has been quite successful in doubles, even in troubled times.

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