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Sunday, February 05, 2012
Mirza anchors India in come-from-behind win against Hong Kong
By Andy Yanne @ 5:52 AM :: 1330 Views ::

After Venise Chan (WTA 534) had given Hong Kong a precious 1-0 lead, clutch play from Sania Mirza (WTA 111) at both number one singles and the deciding doubles saw India narrowly beat Hong Kong 2-1 in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Asia/Oceania Zone Group II Promotion Playoff in Shenzhen over the weekend.

Hong Kong Fed Cup All Time Records (1981-2012)

First up at the two spot, Venise Chan faced 15-year-old teen phenom, Rutuja Bhosale (WTA 789), who, like her opponent, is undefeated in all four round robin singles rubbers this week.

She is also the reigning GB1 Asian Closed Junior Tennis Championship U18 titleholder and accounted for three of the biggest names on India's domestic circuit - Prerna Bhambri, Rushmi Chakravarthi, and Isha Lakhani - to capture the national women's singles crown in 2011.

The match between the pair of unbeaten players began with both sides yielding their service game twice.

With Venise Chan trailing by a break and 3-4 in the first, however, she dictated play increasingly from inside the baseline to strong-arm nine of the next ten games to register a 6-4, 6-1, victory that gave Hong Kong a morale-boosting 1-0 lead.

At number one singles, Zhang Ling (WTA 220) was quickly into stride against a somewhat shaky Sania Mirza who has yet to contest in singles thus far this week. The HK rep managed to keep her composure and conjured a late break to steal the opening set, 7-5.

As if needing the entire first set to find her rhythm, Mirza then showed why she was once ranked as high as No. 27 in the world, as she produced spectacular winners one after the other to grab eleven consecutive games before sealing a one-sided, 5-7, 6-0, 6-1, win in the end.

Although Mirza has slipped to No. 111 in singles, she is, however, the No. 7 ranked women's doubles player in the world at present.

Had Zhang Ling and Venise Chan's play been any less courageous or inspirational, Mirza and her teammate Isha Lakhani would probably have gotten control of the deciding doubles at a much earlier point in time.

Interestingly, even without having collaborated in doubles play since the All China Games in 2009, the Hong Kong duo actually struck first and took the opening set in a close tiebreak, 9-7.

However, as one would expect nothing less from a topnotch player, Sania Mirza came up with the goods on the important points with increasing regularity to thwart the HK duo and anchored the left-handed Lakhani to win the second set commandingly, 6-1.

Still, the HK reps managed to peck away stubbornly and isolated Lakhani whenever opportunities presented themselves to gain the upper hand first before Mirza can intervene effectively.

The duo from Hong Kong took it as far as they could and was on the verge of victory when they served for the match leading 5-3 in the final set.

Unfazed, Mirza again came up with an array of terrific returns and timely forecourt intercepts towards the business end to engineer two successive breaks back to claim the set and the match, 6-7(7), 6-1, 7-5, to propel India to Group I next year.

Although in defeat, non-playing Captain Yu Hiu Tung was full of praise for his players who gave it all they had in the face of a vastly more accomplished doubles player who was a recent women's and mixed semifinalist at the Australian Open.

"Both Zhang Ling and Venise played exceptionally well today and gave us 110%," said the Captain. "But Mirza responded with some dazzling shot-making, especially on the big points, in both her matches and unluckily for us, that was the difference in the end."

"The girls really did us proud today, even though we were so close to nailing a win against a world-class player like Sania Mirza."

Hong Kong last met India in 2008 when Mirza again fueled a come-from-behind victory after Jessica Yang has given the team a slender 1-0 lead, when she partnered Sunitha Rao to win the deciding doubles, 7-6(5), 6-2, against Jessica and Zhang Ling in the Group I Relegation Playoff.

With the win, India is promoted to Group I in 2013, while Hong Kong will stay put in Group II for next year's campaign.

Meanwhile, in the Group I Promotion Playoff also held in Shenzhen this past weekend, both Galina Voskoboeva (WTA 46) and Yaroslava Shvedova (WTA 207) took Peng Shuai (WTA 17) and Li Na (WTA 9) to three sets respectively before China managed to secure a 2-0 win against Kazakhstan.

With the loss, Kazakhstan remains in Group I for 2013, while China will contest April's World Group II Playoffs as they bid to seal promotion to Fed Cup's second tier.

Finally, Indonesia has been demoted to Group II next year following its 3-0 loss in the Group I Relegation Playoff against Uzbekistan on Saturday.

Fed Cup by BNP Paribas
Asia/Oceania Zone Group II
Luohu Tennis Center, Shenzhen
Jan 30-Feb 4, 2012


Day Two
HONG KONG defeated SRI LANKA 3-0
R-1 Venise Chan (HKG) d. Nilushi Fernando (SRI) 6-1 6-0
R-2 Zhang Ling (HKG) d. Roshenka Fernando (SRI) 6-0 6-1
R-3 Yang Zijun/Eudice Chong (HKG) d. Thisuri Molligoda/Nilushi Fernando (SRI) 6-1 6-0

Day Three
R-1 Venise Chan (HKG) d. Ushna Suhail (PAK) 6-1 6-2
R-2 Zhang Ling (HKG) d. Saba Aziz (PAK) 6-0 6-0
R-3 Zhang Ling/Yang Zijun (HKG) d. Ushna Suhail/Sara Mansoor (PAK) 6-1 6-1

Day Four
R-1 Venise Chan (HKG) d. Hannah Chew (SIN) 6-0 6-0
R-2 Zhang Ling (HKG) d. Geraldine Ang (SIN) 6-0 6-0
R-3 Yang Zijun/Eudice Chong (HKG) d. Rehmat Johal/Olivia Koh (SIN) 6-1 6-0

Day Five
R-1 Venise Chan (HKG) d. Inna Volkovic (KGZ) 6-0 6-0
R-2 Bermet Duvanaeva (KGZ) d. Zhang Ling (HKG) 6-3 4-6 6-1
R-3 Zhang Ling/Yang Zijun (HKG) d. Bermet Duvanaeva/Inna Volkovic (KGZ) 6-1 6-1


Day Six
INDIA defeated HONG KONG 2-1
R-1 Venise Chan (HKG) d. Rutuja Bhosale (IND) 6-4 6-1
R-2 Sania Mirza (IND) d. Zhang Ling (HKG) 5-7 6-0 6-1
R-3 Sania Mirza/Isha Lakhani (IND) d. Zhang Ling/Venise Chan (HKG) 6-7(7) 6-1 7-5

Final Positions: 1. India (Promoted to Group I in 2013), 2. Hong Kong, 3. Philippines, 4. Kyrgyzstan, 5. Turkmenistan, 6. Singapore, 7. Oman, 8. Pakistan, 9. Sri Lanka, 10. Iran.


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