Dubai: Tennis fans in the UAE will get an additional bonus week of high-level women’s tennis when six nations, including India and China will compete in the Asia/Oceania Group I Fed Cup at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, from March 3-7.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) had announced earlier this month that the competition that was scheduled to be held in Dongguan, China had been shifted to Dubai due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Players from the six teams – India, China, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, South Korea and Uzbekistan – will be seen in action in the regional competition. The top two finishers in the pool will advance to the play-offs to be held in April, while the fifth and sixth places will be relegated to Group II for 2021.
Players from China, Chinese Taipei and South Korea have already arrived in Dubai and had training sessions on the side courts of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, on Saturday. Teams from India, Uzbekistan and Indonesia were expected to land later on Saturday.
“We’ve got everything in place for a smooth running of the event. There has been talk about the coronavirus among other things, but we’ve put several measures in place to ensure the players and officials are not at risk,” Slah Bramly, Assistant Tournament Director and Technical Director at Tennis Emirates told Gulf News.
One of the main attractions will be former world No. 1 in doubles Sania Mirza who is expected to join up with the Indian squad following her loss with partner Caroline Garcia to Cagla Buyukakcay and Laura Siegemund in their opening round of the Qatar Open in Doha last Monday. The other members of the squad are Ankita Raina (as the highest ranked at No. 180) along with Riya Bhatia, Rutuja Bhosale and Karman Kaur Thandi, while Sowjanya Bavisetti will be the reserve player.
On paper, China have the strongest squad led by Qiang Wang (No. 28), Shuai Zhang (No. 31), Saisai Zheng (No. 37) and Shuai Peng (No. 103), while Chinese Taipei is being led by the experienced doubles world No. 1, Su-Wei Hsieh, currently ranked No. 53 in the singles.
After capturing her third WTA doubles title of the season at the Qatar Total Open, Hsieh will make her return to the WTA World No. 1 doubles ranking on Monday.
Hsieh will spend her ninth non-consecutive week at the top of the WTA doubles rankings, most recently holding the No.1 spot the week of February 3 for three weeks. She first attained the elite position on May 12, 2014 along with China’s Peng Shuai. She will overtake France’s Kristina Mladenovic, who has sat atop the WTA doubles rankings for eight non-consecutive weeks.
The meeting of team captains will be held on Monday while the first round of matches will be worked off from 4 pm on Tuesday. The tournament will consist of each of the six teams playing each other once with the top two finishers earning promotion to the play-offs to play against either Latvia or the Netherlands in mid-April.
It is interesting to note that none of the five participating nations were keen on staging this week’s competition after the ITF took a decision to cancel the event from being held in China due to the corona virus scare.