New Delhi: India faced an uphill task to book a World Group playoff berth as they are clubbed with China, Kazakhstan and Hong Kong in Group B of the Fed Cup Asia-Oceania Group-I tie beginning here on Wednesday.
Kazakhstan have world number 50 Yuliya Putintseva and and number 60 Zarina Diyas in their ranks and China named world no. 114 Zhu Lin in their squad.
In the absence of the experienced Sania Mirza, world no. 259 Ankita Raina and Karman Kaur Thandi (285) will lead the challenge when the hosts open their campaign against China on Wednesday. Sania pulled out of the tournament with a knee injury.
“We have both the top singles players in the team, obviously it’s not going to be very easy but I feel they are good enough to give a tough fight to the Chinese players on Wednesday,” said India captain Ankita Bhambri.
Ankita however, admitted that her squad, which includes Prarthana Thombare and Pranjala Yadlapalli, may find the going tough without Sania, adding that home advantage will prove to be crucial for the hosts.
“Sania is the country’s one of the greatest tennis players, her presence would surely have been a confidence booster,” she said. “It is going to be tough. Our players have to step it up,” she added.
Thandi opens against world no. 125 Wang Yafan while Raina locks horns with Lin Zhu, to whom she lost in the final of the Luan Challenger event in May, last year.
India play Kazakhstan on the second day of the tournament. The hosts then take on Hong Kong, who have former Indian Davis Cupper Karan Rastogi as their captain.
The other group has Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Korea and Japan.
The top teams from the two groups will meet to decide the team progressing to the World Group-II play-off. The bottom teams from the two groups will be relegated to Group 2.