India prepared for tough Fed Cup tennis challenge

Captain Ankita Bhambri exuded confidence about her team before the Group-1 opener against China. The other two teams in India's group are Kazakhstan and Hong Kong.

India prepared for tough Fed Cup tennis challenge
Representational image of the sport of tennis (Reuters)

New Delhi: On the eve of India's Fed Cup Asia-Oceania group-1 tennis opener against China at the RK Khanna Stadium Complex here, captain Ankita Bhambri on Tuesday exuded confidence about her team, saying there is more depth in the current set-up.

Ankita at the same time, cautioned the current Indian squad comprising Ankita Raina, Karman Kaur Thandi, Prarthana Thombare and Pranjala Yadlapalli, that the tournament, which concludes on February 10, will not be an easy affair.

"We have both the top singles players in the team, obviously it's not going to be very easy but I feel they are good enough to give a tough fight to the Chinese players on Wednesday," Ankita told IANS here.

Asked whether the absence of India's women's doubles star Sania Mirza would affect the morale of the side, Ankita said: "Sania is the country's one of the greatest tennis players, her presence would surely have been a confidence booster."

The tournament will be a great stage for the wiry 19-year-old Karman to open the campaign for India, against the Chinese No.2, Yafan Wang, ranked 158 in the world.

If Karman is at the top of her game, India will have a good chance, as Ankita has been playing pretty sharp lately.

Moreover, the 259th-ranked Ankita has had a few interesting matches against the Chinese No.1 Lin Zhu, ranked 115 in the world, and be better prepared to record the first win against her.

In doubles, Prarthana has been playing well in the WTA circuit, reaching a rank of 130 while Pranjala is ready to play if pressed into service.

Commenting on the advantage of playing at home, Ankita, who served as the coach of the women's team during the Asian Indoor Games last year, pointed out that the Indian girls keep playing around the world, and less at home.

Thus, the conditions may be equally alien to everyone.

"It is going to be tough. Our players have to step it up," she said.

India will play Kazakhstan on the second day of the tournament. Kazakhstan has the best two players among the eight teams here, in Yuliya Putintseva and Zarina Diyas, ranked 50 and 60 respectively.

The team had qualified for the World Group-2 playoff last time when it hosted the Asia-Oceania competition but lost to Canada.

The third team in India's way will be Hong Kong, which has the former Indian Davis Cupper, Karan Rastogi as the captain. In fact, Hong Kong arrived at the venue before the host and has been training diligently.

The other group has Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Korea and Japan.

The top teams from the two groups will meet in the final to decide the team progressing to the World Group-2 play-off. The bottom teams from the two groups will be relegated to group-2.

The primary task for most of the teams, including the host, would be to retain their place in Group-1.