Dubai, March 2: Ankita Raina's red-hot form and Sania Mirza's assuring presence will give India a much better shot at the Play-offs place when the six-team Fed Cup competition begins here from Tuesday.
Ankita has been in tremendous form since the start of the season, winning two ITF singles and as many doubles titles. She is placed at a career-best 160 in the singles ranking chart but during the Fed Cup the gritty Ankita has always punched above her weight, giving tough times to formidable opponents. She would be captain Vishal Uppal's biggest weapon apart from multiple-time doubles Grand Slam champion Sania Mirza, who is returning to Fed Cup after four years.
The three-week delay in the start of the tournament due to Coronavirus outbreak has given Sania a chance to recover from her calf injury which had forced her to retire mid-way from her Australian Open women's doubles opener. Her experience of playing and winning at the big stage will help younger players in the side in handling the pressure situations better.
"I had a good start to the season, so I am confident going into the competition. And definitely Sania will inspire all of us to give our best. Her advise and tips will be more than helpful," admitted Ankita.
Riya Bhatia has risen in the ranks and her new-found confidence will be good for India's chances. Karman Kaur Thandi has slipped in rankings after an injury and it will be a chance for the tall Delhi girl to not only regain her confidence but also help the team qualify for the next stage.
India had finished fourth at the Asia/Oceania Group I event but this year they have a realistic chance to make it to top-two. With three top-50 players, China will test Indian players the most in the Asia/Oceania Group I competition, where the top two teams will be promoted to the Play-offs, to be held on April 17-18.
Qiang Wang (ranked 29), Saisai Zheng (34) and Shuai Zhang (35) make a formidable trio in the Chinese side, which missed out on promotion last year after losing 1-2 to hosts Kazakhstan. Another side which may trouble India would be Chinese Taipei, who have Su-Wei Hsieh in their ranks.
It should not be problem for India to handle the challenge of Indonesia and Uzbekistan, though Korea have some good rivals for them. "The conditions are good. All the girls are working hard and there was good energy in the team on and off the court. I have my plans prepared but still have to be present based on situations that may arise," said Uppal.