India win to stay in Group 1

India win to stay in Group 1

Ankita, Karman set up 2-0 win against Chinese Taipei

India win to stay in Group 1

India retained their place in the Asia-Oceania Group 1 after staving off a tough fight from Chinese Taipei in the relegation play-off of the Fed Cup here on Saturday.

Karman Kaur Thandi posted a confident 7-6(4), 6-4 win against a tricky Pei-Chi Lee. Ankita Raina then battled until the last swing against Chieh-Yu Hsu to pull off 6-4, 5-7, 6-1 triumph in a two-hour and 54-minute slugfest. With India winning the tie 2-0, the doubles match did not take place.

The jubilant Indian team quickly took to the court to pose with the Tricolour. India had lost the first two ties to China and Kazakhstan before posting a  victory against Hong Kong in the group stage on Friday.

"It was very important to finish the match off in singles. Chinese Taipei have a strong doubles team. It was a very tough tournament in totality but the players played better with each passing day," said India captain Ankita Bhambri.

It was an impressive show by the 19-year-old Karman. In a crucial tie, she shouldered the responsibility of playing the first singles with maturity. She served big, hitting seven aces, and also moved better. Lee was fluent and fast in her returns but Karman kept her composure to make opportunities count. The Indian teenager had the opportunity to serve out the opening set at 5-4 but dropped her serve. It led to a tie-breaker where she prevailed.

After saving a breakpoint in the opening game of the  second set, Karman made quick amends. She broke the deadlock in the eighth game and then served out the set.

Minutes later, Ankita ran into a doughty Hsu. The left-handed Taipei player played nearly error-free, defensive tennis. With her power-packed strokes and retrieving skills, she made Ankita work for each point. The Indian  brought her counter-punching skills to the fore, and for the next two hours, one was a witness to endless exchanges from the baseline.

To her credit, Ankita stubbornly hung on in the rallies and went up a set to with a break in the 10th game. It gave way to an exhausting second set that lasted one hour and 22 minutes. Hsu took a medical timeout in the 11th game for her left shoulder, before successfully serving out the set to force a decider.

Ankita, however, returned with purpose and renewed strategy to simply run away with the final set. It rounded up a successful week for Ankita, who remained unbeaten in all four matches, that included ties against higher-ranked opponents.

"I think I got really good matches, it will add to my experience," said Ankita.

Japan qualify

Japan beat familiar foe Kazakhstan 2-1 to advance to the World Group II play-offs in April. The two had topped their respective pools. Meanwhile, Taipei and Hong Kong were relegated after finishing last in their pools.

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