Sania Mirza, Ankita Raina guide India to maiden Fed Cup playoffs

Ankita Raina shook off her poor singles form to trigger India’s comeback in the tie against Indonesia.

By Subhayan Dutta

India completed a brilliant comeback against underdogs Indonesia on Saturday to reach their first-ever playoffs in the Fed Cup by winning nine rubbers across five ties and finishing behind China.

The eventful day started with Rutuja Bhosale getting caught off-guard 3-6, 6-0, 3-6 by Indonesia’s Priska Madelyn Nugroho before Ankita Raina changed things.

After beating Indonesia’s Aldila Sutjiadi 6-3, 6-3 in the second singles match, Ankita Raina partnered Sania Mirza in the women’s double match to win 7(7)-6(4), 6-0 against Aldila Sutjiadi and Priska Madelyn Nugroho and complete a 2-1 comeback.

Difficult start for Rutuja Bhosale

Playing against young Priska Madelyn Nugroho, who is making inroads into the senior circuit, a seasoned Rutuja Bhosale was expected to give India the strong start they were looking for.

But, the world no. 433 showed signs of nerves from the very first set as she lost 3-6 as she couldn’t offer much of a fight. The Indian tennis player was broken in the first, third and the ninth game as she trailed 0-1 early on.

Rutuja Bhosale looked in her element in the second set where she produced a clinical performance. The 16-year-old Indonesian was broken thrice in the first, third and the fifth game as the Indian bageled her opponent 6-0 to level things at 1-1.

However, the 15th ranked Indonesian on the ITF junior circuit made a comeback in the deciding set. After saving three breakpoints in the third game, Priska Madelyn Nugroho broke Rutuja Bhosale in the sixth game to win the third and deciding set 6-3.

Ankita Raina pulls India back in tie

After India suffered an unexpected setback in the first match of the tie, the onus was on Ankita Raina to get her team back on track. The underperforming Indian tennis ace, who had won only one of her last four Fed Cup singles matches, rose to the occasion.

Ankita Raina and Samantha Murray lose in straight sets at Prague Challenger 

Up against Aldila Sutjiadi, Ankita Raina was at her clinical best. She broke the world no. 370 once in both the sets and held her serves to seal the match 6-3, 6-3. India was level 1-1 after the second match, with the doubles match next to be the decider.

The Indian tennis pair of Sania Mirza and Ankita Raina took on Aldila Sutjiadi and Priska Madelyn Nugroho in the women’s doubles match, where both the sides got broken twice to end the first set 6-6. However, the Indian tennis duo managed to pip their opponents in the tiebreaker and win it 7(7)-6(4).

A loss in the tiebreaker had seemingly broken the Indonesian pair as they mellowed down in the second set with Sania Mirza and Ankita Raina pulling off the second bagel of the match by breaking their opponent thrice and winning the second set 6-0.

What next for India at the Fed Cup

After finishing second in the Asia/Oceania Group 1 behind China in the Fed Cup, India now gets promoted to the playoffs, which is scheduled to be held in April.