Karman, Ankita notch impressive wins
Ankita Raina. Reuters file photo.
After two days of toil, India finally found the winning route. The hosts overwhelmed Hong Kong 3-0 in the Asia-Oceania Group 1 tie at the R K Khanna Tennis Stadium on Friday.
Young Karman Kaur Thandi conjured her first win here, prevailing 6-3, 6-4 over Eudice Chong, before Ankita Raina continued her winning streak by overcoming experienced Ling Zhang 6-3, 6-2 to clinch the tie for India. It was the hosts' first win of the event after losing to China and Kazakhstan by 1-2 margins.
With the tie in their pocket, India decided to rest Ankita for the doubles. The scratch pairing of Prarthana Thombare and Pranjala Yadlapalli defeated Kwan Yau Ng and Ching Hu Wu 6-2, 6-4 to complete the rout.
India, who are placed third in Pool A, will now meet Chinese Taipei, the fourth placed team in Pool B, in the relegation play-off. The winner will remain in Group I while the loser will be relegated to Group II. India, who have played all their three ties on the centre court, will be playing Taipei on the newly laid and slower court one on Saturday.
Karman, 19, is in the process of getting her grip on the senior circuit. The teenager did well to hang in against Chong, who had specially flown for the national duty from the US. She is a senior at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where plays for the Cardinals. Karman served better this day, with five aces to her credit, and even though she was error-prone, she kept up with the challenge thrown by her lower-ranked opponent.
Karman broke Chong in the third and sixth games and closed the opening set with an ace, following a 38 minutes grind. The two traded early breaks in the second set before Karman effected a decisive crack on Chong's serve in the fifth game. She then served out the set when Chong dumped her backhand on the net.
"In Fed Cup, you get to play players who are ranked 50 or 60. It was an important win for me today. The tie has been a good learning experience," Karman said.
Ankita then put on view another impressive show. Zhang, once ranked 184, had beaten China's top player Lin Zhu 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday. However, despite playing long matches on two successive days, there was no dearth of intensity in Ankita's game. The 25-year-old purposefully retrieved the balls and dominated a succession of long rallies. Zhang, with her free-hitting approach, was stunning in patches, but committed far too many errors.
Ankita went up a set with a break in the fourth game before rustling up a 3-1 advantage in the second. The Indian could have extended her lead in the fifth game, where Zhang saved nine break points, but regrouped quickly to reel off the last three games to walk away with the set and match.