Karman puts India ahead in relegation Play-off tie

The loser of this tie will be relegated to group-2.

Karman Kaur Thandi in action for India in the Fed Cup Asia-Oceania group-1 tennis tie.   -  SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Karman Kaur Thandi rose to the occasion and produced a straight-sets win against a crafty Lee Pei-Chi to hand India a 1-0 lead in the do-or-die Fed Cup tie against Chinese Taipiei here today.

Karman, up against a lower-ranked but tough player, recorded a 7-6(4) 6-3 win in a one hour and 28 minute contest in the opening singles of the relegation Play-off.

India needs to win the tie to stay in the Asia/Oceania Group I as the loser will be relegated to Group II.

Ankita Raina will now take on Chieh-Yu Hsu in the second singles.

Read: Ankita, Thandi seal India's win over Hong Kong in Fed Cup

Lee not only struck the balls hard and clean but also was very crafty. She stayed in control of the points on her serve, making it hard for the local girl. In the entire match, it never looked like Lee is a player ranked outside 450.

Karman, ranked 284, played much better than her previous matches but her game kept going up and down. She served well on the slower show court and perhaps had her best serving day of the competition.

Her serve came good on crucial points, which was a key factor in her big win today. She also played bigger points much better than previous days.

Karman produced good service games in the opening tie- breaker when she went up 5-4, in the first game of the second set when she was down a break point, in the seventh game when she was down 0-30 and finally while serving for the match.

She fired seven aces but also missed several easy put- away volleys.

The two players went neck and neck in the opening set till Karman broke Lee in the eighth. Lee hit a forehand wide at 30-30 and then double faulted.

Serving for the set, Karman committed a flurry of errors as she netted a volley and followed it up with stroke errors.

A long forehand put her down by a break point and allowed Lee to break back by sending a backhand long.

Eventually, a tie-breaker was forced in which the Indian girl prevailed. Down 1-2, she double-broke Lee, gradually moved up 5-4 and sealed the set with a forehand winner.

Karman saved a breakpoint in the opening set, broke the Taipei player in the eighth game and served out the match in the next game.

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