India up against full-strength China in Fed Cup opener

Ankita Raina - India
Ankita Raina - India's No. 1 singles player
Kartik Iyer

What's the story?

India will be facing a full-strength China in their first tie of the Fed Cup Asia-Oceania women’s tennis tournament to be held in Dubai on Tueday.

In case you didn't know...

The Fed Cup is the premier team competition in women's tennis. It is the female equivalent of the the Davis Cup.

The Fed Cup is being held in a new format from this year, with the finals scheduled to take place in Budapest (Hungary) from 14th to 19th April 2020. The Finals will be contested by 12 teams - the two finalists from 2019, the host nation, a wild card and eight qualifiers.

France, Australia, USA, Czech Republic, Russia, Belarus, Spain, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Slovakia and Switzerland are the 12 nations that have qualified for the Fed Cup finals this year.

Czech Republic v USA - Fed Cup Final: Day Two
Czech Republic v USA - Fed Cup Final: Day Two

India is participating in the Asia/Oceania Group I event being held in Dubai, which is part of the group events held across three regions - Americas, Asia/Oceania and Europe/Africa. Each tie in the group stage is contested in best-of-three format, with all matches being played on a single day. The tie consists of two singles matches followed by a doubles match.

The heart of the matter

India have been drawn to face China, arguably the toughest team in the competition, in their first tie. It will be a full-strength Chinese squad comprising Wang Qiang, Shuai Zhang, Zheng Saisai, Shuai Peng and YiFan Xu.

Owing to the Coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese players have not returned home after the Australian Open and have been participating in various tournaments around the globe.

The 28th-ranked Wang Qiang, who reached the 4th round at the Australian Open after beaten Serena Williams in the 3rd round, will be spearheading the Chinese challenge.

Wang Qiang
Wang Qiang

Vishaal Uppal, India's non-playing captain, is positive about his team's chances despite the fact that they are pitted against such a formidable opposition.

China is the toughest team and playing it first could actually be a good thing for us. The best time to catch a top ranked team is in the first round. Having said that, we have to try and beat every team in this competition.

Ankita Raina, who attained a career-high singles ranking of 160 this week, would be shouldering the singles responsibility for India. She is also likely to partner six-time Grand Slam champion Sania Mirza, a former World No. 1, in the doubles rubber.

But the second singles is what might prove to be the weak link for the Indian team. With Karman Kaur Thandi pulling out due to a stress fracture, Uppal would have to choose between Rutuja Bhosale, Riya Bhatia and Sowjanya Bavisetti as the second singles player.

Uppal clarified that the final team nominations will be revealed just before the tie.

Our team nominations will not be revealed till one hour before the tie. We will have a team meeting tonight and then decide accordingly.

What's next?

It will be a tough first outing for the Indian team against the Chinese. With Wang Qiang and other top players in the opposition ranks, India will have to play well above their potential to cause an upset.

Post the China encounter, India are scheduled to face Uzbekistan, Korea, Chinese Taipei and Indonesia in their subsequent ties.

Edited by Musab Abid
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