Indian Fed Cup team favourite to qualify: Piperno

New Delhi, Feb 2 : India’s Fed Cup coach Enrico Piperno feels Indian girls are the favourites to qualify for the Asian-Oceania Group-I stage in the Feb 3-6 competition at Kuala Lumpur’s National Tennis Centre.

In the absence of an injured Sania Mirza, India were relegated to Asia-Oceania zone group II after losing to Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) 3-0 in the playoff last year.

But with a fit Sania back in action, Piperno says chances of India are “extremely bright.”

“Last year Sania was battling injury problems and we missed her. Now she is back and hitting the ball well at the practice. Sania has always enjoyed team atmosphere. She looks relaxed and is here with her mother,” said Piperno, dispelling all doubts of a possible strain on Sania after her recently broken engagement.

“The team is looking good now and raring to go. I feel we are the favourites to qualify,” Piperno told IANS Monday.

India, at 43rd position, is top ranked country in the group that also has Hong Kong China, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Syria. The seven teams will be divided into two pools and the winners of both pools will face each other for a place in Group I.

“We have two strong teams in Hong Kong China and Kyrgyzstan in the group. In Kyrgyzstan especially, there are lot of Russians coming to the country and playing which poses a real challenge for the Asians. Imagine, an unknown country like Kyrgyzstan had two

players in top-100 last year. But then we are likely to meet them only in the later stages of the competition,” Piperno said.

While Sania is the obvious choice for the first singles players, 19-year-old Poojashree Venkatesha, who had a good run on the ITF circuit last year, is likely to play the second singles.

“I think it is a great opportunity for Poojashree to go and prove that she can do it. I think she has the potential. As for the doubles we are trying various combinations but we are yet to finalise on one,” Piperno said.

Rushmi Chakravarthi and Sanaa Bhambri are the other two members of the team with Rohit Rajpal as non-playing captain. The draws will be made Tuesday.

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