Indian Fed Cup faces added challenge

After the Australian Open, multiple Grand Slam champion Sania withdrew from the Fed Cup owing to a knee injury. Coach Nandan Bal said that he had faith in the girls to play their best as it was a young team with potential.

Coach Nandan Bal got back the captaincy of the Fed Cup squad after his last stint with the team from 1995-99.   -  R. Ragu

The Indian Fed Cup team will have the added challenge of facing the best in the Asia-Oceania zone without the energising presence of Sania Mirza.

After the Australian Open, multiple Grand Slam champion Sania withdrew from the Fed Cup owing to a knee injury. "We will definitely miss her. Apart from playing, Sania keeps the team spirit high and motivates. It will be a greater responsibility for us now", said Ankita.

Coach Nandan Bal, getting back the captaincy of the Fed Cup squad after his last stint with the team from 1995-99, said that he had faith in the girls to play their best as it was a young team with potential.

"I expect Ankita to play both singles and doubles. We have Karman Kaur and Snehadevi Reddy who are capable. We were sure of taking Riya Bhatia with the team on the basis of her having won the national titles, even when Sania was in the team", said Nandan, on the eve of the team’s departure for Kazakhstan.

India is in a tough group along with Japan, China and Philippines and plays the teams in that order from February 8. "I was keen to be there in time for the girls to get used to the indoor and cold conditions in Almaty", said Nandan who emphasised that the immediate challenge for the team would be to stay in the group.

"I am confident because I have just finished my pre-season training for four weeks. Karman has been performing well. I have not seen Sneha and Riya play recently, but I am sure they are playing well", said Ankita.

The other group has Korea and Thailand, apart from host Kazakhstan. The top teams from the two groups will play to decide the team qualifying for the World Group-1 play-off. The last placed teams in the two groups will play each other and the loser will get relegated to group-2.

"There is no point getting intimidated by looking at the rank of the players in the other teams. We have to just to go there and play our best tennis. You never know what can happen", said Nandan.