Indian Tennis

Fed Cup: Unbeaten Ankita Raina ensures India retain their place in Asia/Oceania Group I

Karman Kaur Thandi also produced an impressive 7-6(4), 6-3 win as India beat Chinese Taipei 2-0 in the relegation Play-off in Delhi.

After overcoming much higher-ranked players in her unbeaten singles run in the Fed Cup, India’s top singles player Ankita Raina is confident that she will return to the Pro circuit with a lot more experience and momentum.

Raina beat as Yuliya Putintseva, who is ranked 81 but was 27 last year, and China’s world number 120 Lin Zhu in the first ties, which were the only victories India got on the first two days. On Saturday, she pprevailed over Chieh-Yu Hsu in a two hour and 54 minutes long marathon to notch a 6-4, 5-7, 6-1.

Karman Kaur Thandi also produced an impressive 7-6(4), 6-3 win over a crafty Lee Pei-Chi as India retained their place in the Asia/Oceania Group I in the Fed Cup after beating Chinese Taipei 2-0 in the relegation Play-off in Delhi.

“I played some good matches, it adds to my experience. All the matches were challenging in a different way. The biggest challenge was to recover for doubles after playing singles and then again remain ready for the next singles,” Raina said after helping India remain in Group I, said.

Raina, playing the tennis of her life, remained unbeaten in her singles matches in the competition, winning all her four matches.

Running into an opponent who, being a left-hander, fed Raina a lot of angled balls to her backhand, the Indian girl had to re-work strategy as she was unable to hit the balls deep. It was a strategy which had paid her good dividends in previous matches but playing on a slower court made her job tough as hitting the ball hard was never enough. With almost every ball coming back and no free points available, Raina had to dig deep to find a way in breaking the solid defence of her opponent, whose best rank was 224.

Talking about her the marathon match, which lasted almost three hours, Raina said she was glad that she could pull it off.

“The court was slower and it worked to her advantage. It was tough. The level of players were completely different in first two days and today she was completely different. Both of us kept changing the tactics. I had to grind it out. In third set, I understood that there was no point rallying, so I went for my shots,” she said.

“I also came to the net, which I usually don’t do,” said Raina, who will return to the Pro circuit from next month.

The 25-year-old also said small things made a huge difference to her results as there was a trainer to help her recover fast and she did not need to worry about arranging food and courts for practice.

Raina was also all praise for Thandi as well, who gave India a 1-0 lead. “Thandi showed some nerves in first tie-breaker. She did a good job. It was important that she won,” she said.

India captain Ankita Bhambri was “relieved” that the match ended in two singles.

“I was very anxious. The Chinese Taipei players are solid in doubles. I am relieved,” said Bhambri, who guided the senior Fed Cup team for the first time.

Bhambri was quite candid and honest in admitting that sometimes players may find it difficult to accept inputs from someone who is not training them on regular basis.

“They can find the tips and tactics not helpful but eventually we pulled it off. It was a team work,” she added.

With inputs from PTI

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