Boosted by Sania Mirza, team India eye Fed Cup redemption

Mirza will be joined by Ankita Raina, led by Vishal Uppal in the five-day event in Dubai beginning March 3.

By Sandeep Banerjee ·

Sania Mirza, Ankita Raina and the rest of India's five-player contingent are set to square off against formidable opponents as the Fed Cup begins in Dubai from March 3.

The event, earlier scheduled to be held in Dongguan, China in February, was rescheduled and moved to Dubai by the International Tennis Federation on account of the coronavirus outbreak in China.

A breather for Sania Mirza

The change of dates turned out to be a fortunate event for Sania Mirza. The Indian tennis ace, who had marked a successful comeback from her maternity sabbatical with a win in the Hobart International in January, suffered a calf injury soon after, during the Australian Open.

Paired up with Nadia Kichenok, Sania Mirza marked her return from motherhood with a win at the Hobart International 2020.

While on the mend, she participated in the Dubai Tennis Championships and the Qatar Open, with second and first-round eliminations to show for them.

Had the Fed Cup not been postponed, Sania Mirza's participation would have been in doubt.

Now, her presence adds the much-needed flavour of experience to the Indian line-up.

"I had a good start to the season, so I am confident going into the competition. And definitely Sania will inspire all of us to give our best," Ankita Raina said during a conversation with the Press Trust of India. "Her advise and tips will be more than helpful."

Mirza will lead the doubles effort alongside the 119th-ranked Ankita Raina, while Rutuja Bhosale (188th), coming off a doubles final win at the ITF India 01A in February, is also a bankable doubles contender for India.

Ankita Raina in peak form

Ankita Raina will be another key player of the Indian squad and is likely to head the singles challenge. A successful few weeks during February saw her win the doubles final and make it to the singles final at the Thailand Open 2020. She followed that up with a win in the ITF India 01A singles final.

At 160th, Raina is the highest-ranked Indian in the team and is pegged to lead the singles' challenge, backed up by Riya Bhatia (338th), Rutuja Bhosale (433rd) and Karman Thandi (592nd).

Thandi, however, is reportedly injured and could be replaced by the 600th-ranked Sowjanya Bavisetti.

Formidable Fed Cup competition

The Fed Cup will be played as a round-robin competition with a pool of six teams in one group. India’s group includes China, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, Korea Republic, and Uzbekistan. The bottom-ranked two sides in the group will be relegated to the lower group.

With high-ranked players such as Qiang Wang (29th), Saisai Zheng (34th) and Shuai Zhang (35th), China promises to be India's most daunting competition.

Chinese Taipei, fronted by former doubles world no. 1 Su-Wei Hsieh and current no. 53, will be one to keep an eye on as well. Hsieh is coming off a doubles final win at the Dubai Tennis Championships and Qatar Open in February.

Uppal To Lead in Fed Cup

Vishal Uppal will play the role of the skipper for the Indian Fed Cup team while Ankita Bhambri will coach the team.

Despite the daunting opposition, Uppal is optimistic about facing the challenge.

“We have to play our hearts out and compete like crazy to upset a couple of teams. With the form that Ankita Raina is in and with, Sania, Karman, Rutuja back, we have a lot of depth now and can share the workload," Uppal told Indian Tennis Daily.

In the 2019 Fed Cup, India suffered a 1-2 loss to South Korea in their Asia/Oceania Group I Playoffs match.

Fed Cup Schedule and Fixtures

The matches get underway on Tuesday, March 3, with India facing trial by fire against China. Following that, India will go up against Uzbekistan (Wednesday), Korea (Thursday), Chinese Taipei (Friday) and Indonesia (Saturday).

Where to watch the Fed Cup

There is no live telecast of the Fed Cup in India. The action, however, can be streamed on the official website.