NEW DELHI: Ankita Raina showed nerves of steel in an inspirational win over a seasoned Yulia Putintseva but her effort proved insufficient again as India lost the Fed Cup tie 1-2 to Kazakhstan after losing the decisive doubles here on Thursday.
Ankita not only had to grind it out but also shrugged off poor umpiring to emerge a 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 winner in two hours and 25 minutes against a player, who was ranked as high as 27 last year and had beaten top-10 players.
Before Ankita’s win, Karman Kaur Thandi gave ample display of her talent but lacked consistency and lost the opening singles of the Asia/Oceania Group I tie to world number 55 Zarina Diyas.
However, the doubles proved to be a weak link again as Anita and Prarthana Thombare were demolished 0-6, 4-6 by Diyas and Putintseva.
Prarthana has been focusing on doubles for some time now but she failed to anchor India in the decisive match for the second day in a row.
Thursday’s defeat means that India are out of the World Group Play-offs race. From Pool A, it will be either China or Kazakhstan who will clash with winner of Pool B for a place in the Play-off, scheduled for April.
India, who next take on Hong Kong, will strive to maintain their place in the Asia/Oceania Group I.
Ankita, who had beaten world number 120 Lin Zhu on Wednesday, responded to the call from her team with a sensational performance against the world number 81 Kazakh.
Putintseva, who beat players of the caliber of Svetlana Kuznetsova and Dominika Cibulkova en route the final of St Petersburg WTA event last year, found the going tough against Ankita, who stood out with her relentless returns.
It was a dogfight from the baseline as Putintseva, a grinder from across the court, was picking everything and throwing it back.
Ankita too was prepared to put the balls back on the court, which meant points were long and hard-fought.
Ankita did create a small opening to get the first break in the sixth game by hitting consistently on the backhand side of the Kazakh and then blasted a forehand winner, but Putintseva played smartly to save the chance.
However, Ankita kept putting pressure on her opponent as she charged the net and Putintseva tried a lob, which went long. It put the Kazakh down 15-30.
An error from Putintseva handed Ankita two break chances and the Indian converted the second one. It was a reward of her hard work as Ankita never let Putintseva breathe easy with consistent returns on her backhand side.
Despite having to play a point twice after a call error at 30-0, Ankita served out the set at love.
A break of serve was the best possible start for Ankita in the second set but some poor calls by the chair umpire and linemen not only prevented the Indian from consolidating the break but she also lost serve.
There was a sudden change in the fortune of Putintseva, who had raced to a 4-1 lead as the Indian dropped serve again.
Ankita’s strokes lost the sting a bit and riding on the momentum, Putintseva broke the Indian one more time and served out the set to make it even steven.
Ankita’s returns were not as sharp, powerful and precise as they were in the opening set. She lost serve in the third game to let Putintseva take lead in the decider.
She was down by three breakpoints in the fifth game as well but the Indian, ranked just 253 in the world, fought them all for a crucial hold.
The slugfest continued and it was 4-4. Ankita held her own serve under pressure and broke the Kazkah one final time when Putintseva hit a backhand wide on match point to record a memorable win.
Ankita had to hold back celebration after the Kazakh team protested against a call. But the chair umpire was not convinced and a relieved Ankita bowed.
Earlier, Karman started playing freely only after dropping serve in the second and saving a break point in the fourth. In a nervous start, like yesterday, she was broken at love in the second game as she hit a forehand wide and long.
While Diyas cruised to a 4-1 lead, Karman finally found some rhythm and started to play her strokes fluently.
Karman adopted an aggressive approach while returning as she sent deep balls on both flanks and was rewarded when she earned three breakpoints in the seventh game and converted the second one with an exquisite forehand winner.
The Indian, trying too hard, dropped serve in the next game. Diyas was serving for the set when she went down 30-40 but Karman hit a backhand long to let go the break chance.
That was enough for the experienced Kazakh to seal the set. While Karman was fighting a lot better, she was not consistent enough. A flurry of forehand errors resulted in early break of serve in the second set.
Karman was now serving a lot better and got the ball to bounce, using her height. She served the third game at love and was up 30-0 in the fifth but her rhythm was disturbed when she had to replay a point following a debatable call.
Captain Ankita Bhambri had an argument with the chair umpire and all this affected Karman, who served two double faults to drop the serve. Trailing 1-4, Karman got one break back with a well-constructed point.
It was important not to lose serve from there on but she lost it at love, allowing Diyas to serve out the match in the next.
Source : timesofindia