Sania Mirza key to India's Fed Cup journey, says team coach

In must-win situations, Sania Mirza won all three of her Fed Cup ties and her experience made the difference, opined Ankita Bhambri

Sania Mirza’s presence was pivotal to the Indian Fed Cup team making it to their maiden playoffs back in March, coach Ankita Bhambri believes.

The Indian eves reached the Fed Cup playoffs for the first time in the nation’s history after finishing behind China in Group I of the Asia/Oceanic Zone.

Sania Mirza was part of the five-woman team, coached by Ankita Bhambri, who scripted the grand feat.

“Sania brings in a lot of energy to the team and motivates everyone and gives everyone the confidence that it’s (qualifying to the playoffs) is a doable job,” Ankita Bhambri reflected during an Instagram Live with former tennis player Balachandran Manikkath.

The Indian team was drawn alongside China, Uzbekistan, South Korea, Chinese Taipei and Indonesia in their group.

After going down 3-0 in their opening tie against China, India regrouped and secured a 3-0 victory over Uzbekistan.

Sania Mirza played her first match of the Fed Cup 2020 against South Korea and produced key performances in the remainder of the group stage to get India over the line.

Last month, she became the first Indian tennis player to win the Fed Cup Heart award from the Asia/Oceania zone.

The ultimate clutch performer

All three of Sania Mirza’s doubles matches in the Fed Cup were must-win scenarios for India and the six-time Grand Slam doubles champion rose to the challenge on every single occasion.

“She (Mirza) won all her doubles matches, which is how we got through,” noted Ankita Bhambri.

“We had been in the situation before where we were 1-1 in the Fed Cup but ended up losing most of our ties in doubles. This time, thanks to Sania and Ankita Raina combining well, we pulled through,” she added.

Against the Korea Republic, the score was tied at 1-1 after Rutuja Bhosale’s victory in straight sets over Su Jeong Jang followed by Ankita Raina’s defeat at the hands of Na-Lae Han.

Sania Mirza and Ankita Raina won the decider against Na-Lae Han and Kim Na-Ri  6-4, 6-4 to help India clinch the tie 2-1. 

In India’s fourth outing of the group stage against Chinese Taipei, it was a similar story as the score stood tied at 1-1 after the first two rubbers.

Sania Mirza paired with Ankita Raina in the decider yet again, this time against former world no.1 doubles player Latisha Chan and En Shuo Liang.

The Indian duo clinched a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 victory for India to emulate the 2-1 overall result they had against the Republic of Korea.

In India’s final group stage encounter against Indonesia, the score was once again tied at 1-1 after the two singles matches.

The Sania Mirza-Ankita Raina pair, however, bailed the team out with a 7-6, 6-0 win over Priska Madelyn Nugroho and Aldila Sutjiadi in the decider to help India reach the historic Fed Cup playoffs.

India was scheduled to take on Latvia in the playoffs in April, but the tie has been postponed to a later date owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

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