Fed Cup 2020: Boosted by Sania Mirza's return, India gear up for tough battle in Dubai
The venue for the Fed Cup was shifted, which allowed Sania Mirza an opportunity to regain fitness from her calf injury and make the squad.
The Indian women’s tennis contingent will face an intense competition when they take the field to compete in the Federation Cup in Dubai from March 3, 2020. Led by Sania Mirza and Ankita Raina, the Indians have a good blend of experience and youth in their side. However, with China, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, South Korea and Uzbekistan competing as well, they will need to be at the top of their game to finish amongst the top two.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) had earlier shifted the tennis competition from Dongguan, China to Dubai due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Federation Cup was slated to be held in February before the venue was shifted, which allowed Mirza an opportunity to regain fitness from her calf injury and make the squad. The comeback star had injured herself and had to pull out of the Australian Open earlier in the year, and would have missed the Federation Cup if the tournament had gone on as originally planned.
Her presence, thus, comes as a huge boost to the five-member Indian team. The Hyderabadi won her first competitive tournament after a two-year break in early January, The Hobart International, but has, since, been defeated in the second round of the Dubai Tennis Championships and in the first round of the Qatar Open that ended last week. However, she has plenty of experience and the former world number one doubles player will spearhead the side, that also has Ankita Raina.
Raina is in the midst of a fine form. She has already won the women’s singles titles at the ITF Thailand Open and the ITF India Open in 2020, and is the highest ranked Indian in the team with a singles ranking of 119. She has a doubles ranking of 160. Riya Bhatia, Rutuja Bhosale and Sowjanya Bavisetti are the other tennis players in the team. Vishal Uppal will captain the side.
India’s biggest opponent in the fixture will be China, who walk into the Federation Cup with players like Qiang Wang (No. 28), Shuai Zhang (No. 31), Saisai Zheng (No. 37) and Shuai Peng (No. 103). Chinese Taipei is being led by Su-Wei Hsieh, former doubles world number 1 and current 53 ranked in the single’s charts.
Hsieh, who won the WTA doubles title at the Qatar Open, will return to the top spot in the doubles ranking on Monday.
Uppal had earlier told Indian Tennis Daily that the other sides in the tourney are equally dangerous as well, but India will fancy their chances. “We have a realistic chance of qualifying for the next stage. We have two teams qualify. China and Taipei are the two favourites. Korea, Indonesia and Uzbekistan are equally dangerous – we cannot take any of them lightly.
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.”
Each team will play each other once, with the top two sides qualifying for the play-offs, where they will take on either The Netherlands or Latvia in April.