New Delhi, March 8: The Indian women's tennis team was in a state of disbelief long after it had entered a territory never explored by its predecessors -- a place in the Fed Cup playoffs.
The Indian Fed Cup team created history on Saturday night by progressing to the playoffs for the first time ever with Ankita Raina leading the side to a 2-1 win over Indonesia in Dubai.
In the past, Raina would take most of the load, but with the rise of Karman Kaur Thandi, the team began to challenge tougher opponents. Karman, who has a good game with a fierce forehand, pulled out this year due to a foot injury and in her absence, Rutuja Bhosale perfectly fit into the scheme of things.
Captain Vishal Uppal reposed faith in her, preferring the Pune girl over the higher-ranked Riya Bhatia and she did not disappoint. She won three singles matches while Ankita won two singles and combined with the seasoned Sania Mirza to win three doubles as well.
"I had dreamt of this and believed but after the tie I couldn't actually believe, I asked Rutuja twice if we actually qualified," Ankita toId PTI from Dubai.
"It's just great to be a part of something so special that'll be recorded in history and it's an honour to have a chance to do with Sania, especially after her pregnancy."
Rutuja, 23, too was ecstatic at playing her role as expected and is hoping that the Fed Cup experience will help her on the Tour also. "It is such an honour to play for the country. And for me it really means so much because I am coming off an injury and have struggled with it so much last year which restricted me to play good tennis.
"It is a very good exposure for me as it will help me in the rest of the tour. Playing tough matches everyday just proves so much mettle."
The Pune girl thrice put India ahead and it had an impact, allowing Raina to play freely against the tougher opponents. "I think getting that 1-0 lead this year was important as it helped Ankita play I feel. It is better to go into the match with a lead. I hope she feels that way too," she quipped.
Raina acknowledged the good job done by her colleague. "It's all a team effort and I do want to mention that Vishal sir did a phenomenal job, right from making sure we come together as a team to cheering for each other. Rutuja of course did a great job. She was out for some weeks but she's fought hard and we saw it.
"Riya and Sowjanya have been very contributing. Our Physio Anand sir and coach Ankita Bhambri were everyday helping us with recovery, practice and keeping us positive.
"I would say it's a gift for all the Indian women from team india on Women's Day."
Raina also talked about her match against world number 29 Qiang Wang whom she almost defeated but for dizziness she suffered during the match. "I think continuous travelling and eating different food created acidity which troubled me this week a lot, but once I go back to pune will look into it."
Uppal too was delighted with the achievement of his side. "It's a historic moment and to be a part of it. It feels surreal. I'm very proud of each and every member of our team, the players, physio, coach, manager.
"We all came together and worked towards a common goal. Having achieved it feels amazing. I hope this will give a big boost to Women’s tennis in India! The key was to do the fundamentals well and keep it simple on court. As a team everyone stepped up one day or the other which is very important."