Fed Cup: Buoyed India ready to explore new territory

It will be a unique experience for the women’s tennis team to travel to either Latvia or the Netherlands for the World Group Playoff.

Awesome twosome: Ankita Raina and Sania Mirza, who won three decisive doubles matches as a pair, sport their Fed Cup medals in Dubai. - SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

It will be a unique experience for the Indian women’s tennis team to travel to either Latvia or the Netherlands for the Fed Cup World Group playoff to be played on April 17 and 18.

Indian women’s tennis had never reached this far in the Fed Cup over the years. The breakthrough performance, ably piloted by Sania Mirza who won three decisive doubles against South Korea, Chinese Taipei and Indonesia, was possible thanks to the ties being kept alive in singles, twice by Rutuja Bhosale and once by Ankita Raina.

Of course, Ankita shared a lion’s share of the work as she played five singles and three doubles. “It is good for women’s tennis in India. It is great that I have been able to see this day, in my second innings. It was very close. It says a lot about women’s tennis in India. It has been growing over the years,” said Sania, quite happy to lead a bunch of girls, who overcame the hurdles with sheer determination.

“If I am healthy, I will play,” said Sania, when queried about her availability for the playoff, after the historic triumph, when the team qualified along with China, for the playoff.

‘Fabulous’

“This is fabulous. It is unbelievable. The girls played their heart out,” said the captain of the team, Vishaal Uppal, who had believed that the team had the best chance to make the grade, and prepared it diligently.

It will be a hard battle on the next stage, as Latvia had lost 2-3 to the top seed U.S. in the qualifier in February, while the Netherlands was beaten 3-2 by the second seed Belarus. “It is fantastic. Everyone played well, it was tough and tiring. We spent the entire day, either preparing or playing matches. Sania has so much experience at the highest level. The girls stayed motivated and focused to achieve this result,” said Ankita Bhambri, the coach of the team, who herself has been part of the Indian teams from U-14, U-16 to Fed Cup competitions, often in the company of Sania.

It comes naturally for Sania to be at home against top-class players, and it was particularly special for her to be able to come from home and compete, as Dubai is her second home. It was in Dubai in 2005, when Sania continued despite twisting her ankle during the match to beat the US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 6-2, in the second round of the WTA event.

“It was nice to stay at home, come and play matches. I like playing here. We practised together,” summed up Sania, who has had a remarkable return to the professional circuit this season, after giving birth to Izhaan.

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