Indian team gears up for lively Fed Cup challenge in Nur Sultan

With one pool of six teams, the competition is likely to be a lot more lively this time, and two qualification spots would make every team try that much harder to make the cut.

Ankita Raina will lead the Indian challenge in Fed Cup.   -  Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

The Indian team is set to leave for Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan, on January 31, for the Fed Cup Asia-Oceania group-1 women’s tennis tournament to be played from February 4 to 8. 

Captain of the team, Vishaal Uppal, said that the travel formalities were being addressed. 

“Ankita Raina and Riya Bhatia are playing a tournament in Thailand this week. Depending on their performance, they may reach Kazakhstan directly. The rest of us will be leaving from Delhi,” said Uppal. 

The tie was originally scheduled to be held in Dongguan, China, but was shifted to Nur Sultan by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), owing “to increasing travel restrictions in China” following the outbreak of the coronavirus.

 India had played its Davis Cup tie against Pakistan at the same venue in Nur Sultan, after the tie was shifted out of Islamabad. With the provision of visa on arrival, Kazakhstan serves as an ideal emergency venue.

READ: Sania exits Australian Open with calf injury

China, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, Korea and Uzbekistan will be the other teams in the fray. The top two teams will qualify for the World Group-2 play-off, after the league stage, while the bottom two would be relegated to group-2 in the zone.

The captain said that the recovery of Sania Mirza, who retired from the Australian Open with a calf muscle injury, was being monitored. 

India had fared well last year at the same venue, and had lost to Korea in the match for the third place, as Karman Kaur was injured. 

Rutuja Bhosale returns to the squad after missing the last edition, and the national champion Sowjanya Bavisetti would be the reserve. Ankita Bhambri will be the coach of the team, while Anand Dubey will accompany the team as the physio. 

Host Kazakhstan had beaten China in the final to grab the lone qualification spot last year, from among the seven teams. With one pool of six teams, the competition is likely to be a lot more lively this time, and two qualification spots would make every team try that much harder to make the cut. 

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