Sania's return enhances India's chance at Fed Cup

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Bolstered by the return of ace player Sania Mirza and drawn into a relatively easy Group, India would aim to re-enter Group I when the Asia/Oceania zone Fed Cup

Updated: February 02, 2010 17:07 IST
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Kuala Lumpur:

Bolstered by the return of ace player Sania Mirza and drawn into a relatively easy Group, India would aim to re-enter Group I when the Asia/Oceania zone Fed Cup tournament here on Wednesday.

India have been grouped with hosts Malaysia and Singapore that do not boast of any top-class player.

Winners of both the pools competing in the Asia/Oceania zone Group II will clash in the play-off tie to decide which nation is promoted to Group I. India will play their first rubber on Thursday.

India were relegated to Group II last year after being blanked 0-3 by Taiwan in play-off tie of women's team event.

Sania had pulled put of the tournament in 2009 citing an abdominal injury and also did not play in 2008.

Now that she is back with the team and the opponents are weak, India coach Enrico Piperno says they have a good opportunity to get back to Group I from where they can strive to earn a place in the World Group.

"Absolutely we have a chance. The team is quite motivated. We are in the right group. Kyrgyzstan and Hong Kong are on the other side. This is best we can expect.

"I am quite confident since Sania is back with the team. She wants to play and help India get back to Group I. There is experienced Rushmi (Chakravarthy) and Sanaa (Bhambri) is also there. The team is excited," Piperno said.

Piperno also believes that personal setbacks would not affect Sania's on-court performance as she recently ended her engagement with Sohrab Mirza.

"Not at all, she is upbeat and quite keen to play. She has been practising hard for the last three days. The whole team practised in two sessions everyday," Piperno said.

The coach also said that youngster Poojashree Venkatesha will get her debut.

"Poojashree will definitely make her debut. She played well on the domestic circuit last season. I am looking forward to her good debut," he said.

The selectors had rewarded Poojashree for her brilliant performance last year, in which she won four ITF Futures titles out of five finals.

Veteran Rushmi Chakravarthy, experienced Sanaa Bhambri and young Ankita Raina and Shivika Burman are the other members of the squad.

Last year, Inda lost all their four ties to be relegated, and Sanaa says Sania's absence played a role in that.

"All the teams had at least one top-100 player in their ranks. But we did not. It is important to have top player to give fight and that's why we lost last time. It was not unexpected," she said.

Sanaa said the team has prepared well as they flew to Malaysia after attending a Commonwealth Games preparatory camp in Pune.

"The Commonwealth Games camp has given us all good practice. Last year we went without practice. So we are hoping of doing well. We had matchplays, played doubles and also had kick-boxing sessions which helped in stamina building and improving flexibility," she said.

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