India will be up against five other teams – China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand – in the Asia/Oceania Group I stage.
Sania Mirza and India’s highest-ranked women’s singles player Ankita Raina have been included in the five-member Indian tennis team for the Billie Jean King Cup 2022 Asia/Oceania Group I stage, beginning from April 12 in Antalya, Turkey.
While Karman Kaur Thandi and Rutuja Bhosale kept their places in the team, Zeel Desai, who was in the squad when India lost to Latvia in the World Group play-offs last year, missed out. Riya Bhatia replaced Zeel for this season.
Shalini Thakur will be the coach.
“The selection committee felt that Riya being the higher-ranked deserves an opportunity. She had missed out the last time due to COVID-19. It is a tough qualification zone. China and Japan will be the biggest threat,” former Indian tennis player Vishal Uppal, who will be the non-playing captain of the team, told PTI.
The Indian players will likely have a camp to prepare for the matches which will be played on clay courts.
“We will see if we can get together and practice. The tournament is on clay. Our players are experienced on playing on European clay, they are familiar with the surface but homework is needed on matching up with these countries,” Vishal Uppal added.
India will compete with five other teams – China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand – in a round-robin format in the Asia/Oceania Group I stage. The top two nations will be promoted to the play-offs next year.
Last season, Sania Mirza went unbeaten through the group stages to help India finish second and qualify for their maiden World Group play-offs. India, however, lost to Latvia 3-1 in the playoff tie and dropped back to the zonal competition.
Sania Mirza, who is set to retire from professional tennis at the end of this year, will enter the Billie Jean Cup in good form, having made it to the semi-finals of both Dubai Tennis Championships and Qatar Open.
Ankita Raina, ranked world No. 339 in women’s singles, will look to get back in form before the competition begins in April.
The Billie Jean Cup, formerly known as the Fed Cup, is the most prestigious team-based international competition in women’s tennis.
Indian tennis team for Billie Jean King Cup 2022
Squad: Sania Mirza, Ankita Raina, Karman Kaur Thandi, Rutuja Bhosale, Riya Bhatia
Captain (non-playing): Vishal Uppal
Coach: Shalini Thakur
By Ali Asgar Nalwala
Photo : olympics.com
Website : olympics.com