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BJK Cup: Indian team leaves for Latvia tie

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New Delhi, April 9 (IANS) Four members of the Indian women’s tennis team — Rutuja Bhosle, Zeel Desai and Karman Kaur Thandi, along with reserve Riya Bhatia — will leave for Latvia’s capital Riga on Friday for the Billie Jean King Cup on April 16-17.

The Indian team captain, Vishal Uppal tweeted, “Exciting times for Women’s Tennis in India. Look forward to uniting with the whole team in Latvia!”

The All India Tennis Association (AITA) on Friday posted pictures of the team on social media with the players and the coach posing wearing face masks.

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India’s tennis ace Sania Mirza, who was recently included in the Sports Ministry’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) for four years, and Ankita Raina will join the team from Dubai where the two have been training for the last one week.

This is the first time in history that the Indian women’s tennis team has made it to the World Group Play-offs of the Billie Jean King Cup — formerly known as the Fed Cup — and they have a tough challenge on hand given that Latvia have some top players in their ranks.

India made it to the World Group Play-offs for the first time by virtue of finishing second in the Asia/Oceania Group I tie, which took place in the Emirates in March 2020, while Latvia were beaten by the United States in their group.

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India are unlikely to have an easy outing as Latvia will be fielding a strong team that has the likes of former French Open champion and current world No. 54 Jelena Ostapenko, besides 2018 US Open semi-finalist Anastasija Sevastova, who was ranked world No. 11 at her peak. Latvia had given the Serena Williams-led United States team a tough time in the 2020 Qualifiers before losing 2-3.

India’s hopes of winning the tie will rest on Raina, who has earned the reputation of a giant-killer over the years, while Sania’s experience will come in handy for the young team.

The tie will be played at the National Tennis Centre, Lielupe, Jurmala.

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–IANS

akm/bg

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