India faces Latvian test in Billie Jean King Cup playoffs

Ankita Raina and Karman Kaur Thandi will play their respective singles ties on Friday; the former will partner Mirza in the doubles match on Saturday.

File picture of Sania Mirza and Ankita Raina.   -  Special Arrangement

Lack of crowd and hard court may tilt the balance slightly away from hosts Latvia, but its leading players Jelena Ostapenko and Anastasija Sevastova were confident of playing their best at home against India in the Billie Jean King Cup World group play-off tennis tie.

"It is not fun for me to play without crowd. We are ready to go’’, said Ostapenko, whose name was taken in the draw ceremony in Jurmala on Thursday.

Ostapenko will be playing the first match on Friday against Ankita Raina. It will be followed by Karman Kaur Thandi against Anastasija Sevastova.

ALSO READ | Sania Mirza on Billie Jean King Cup: It's an amazing opportunity and exposure

"It is tough without spectators at home. We are glad to play. We have to be at our best’’, said the 47th ranked Sevastova. Conceding that hard court instead of clay, was ‘’good for team India’’, the 31-year-old Anastasija said that she had played on the courts from the age of 10, and would still feel at home.

Anastasija had beaten Ankita in the final of a $25,000 ITF women’s event in Ahmedabad in April 2015. Pointing at the contrasting conditions and the span of six years, Anastasija said that she was ready for the match.

"We are ready to put up a tough fight,’’ said the captain of the Indian team Vishaal Uppal.

Playing for the first time at this level, Vishaal felt that the ‘home crowd pressure’ will not be there on the Indian team. ‘’Glad to have this opportunity. I always play the best when playing for the country. I am excited for the tie’’, said Ankita, happy to take the load of playing three of the five rubbers in the tie.

The rules allow change of nominations for the second day. ‘’Fast or slow hard court does not matter. It is an opportunity to play against good players. Am looking forward to it’’, said Karman, who had missed the Asia-Oceania group-1 stage in 2020 when India qualified for the play-off, by finishing second behind China.

Asked about opting for Karman instead of Ruruja Bhosale, Vishaal said that it was a hard decision. "On day one, I thought Karman could give us a little extra. It was a tough decision. I have gone with my gut,’’ he said.

Among the four players from the two teams, Karman summed up nicely about FedCup being rechristened as Billie Jean King Cup. "It is an honour for us to represent this brand. Billie Jean King stood up for equality and social justice’’, Karman said. The tie will be live on EuroSport.

The Draw

April 16:
Ankita Raina vs Jelena Ostapenko (8.30 p.m. IST) followed by Karman Kaur Thandi vs Anastasija Sevastova

April 17: Ankita Raina vs Anastasija Sevastova (4.30 p.m. IST) Karman Kaur Thandi vs Jelena Ostapenko, Ankita Raina & Sania Mirza vs Diana Marcinkevica & Daniela Vismane.
For more updates, follow Sportstar on :