Ankita Raina
Ankita Raina in action for India in Dubai at the Fed Cup Image Credit: Courtesy Mauricio Ramos

Dubai: India’s best-ever Fed Cup performance of qualifying to the play-offs against Latvia in April has left captain Vishal Uppal dreaming of a much better future for women’s tennis in the country.

Former player Uppal, who now shuttles as coach between his two tennis centres at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association Complex and the VAN Sports Club, was “lost for words” after India dug in deep to defeat Indonesia on the final night of the Asia/Oceania Group I Fed Cup in Dubai, late on Saturday.

“The fact is that there are many more youngsters back home at the moment who are waiting to break into the main scheme of things for India. Hence, this win tonight was important to ensure these youngsters can get the necessary inspiration from this squad,” Uppal told Gulf News.

“At this moment I am lost for words, but we do realise that this is such a historic moment for tennis and sports in India. We have achieved something that we have never been able to do in so many years, and all credit to these girls here,” he added.

India finished behind China to claim the two play-off spots on offer. India will next take on Latvia, while China will face the Netherlands in the play-offs scheduled for April 17-18.

Uppal’s crowning moment with the Indian team came during the 2002 Busan Asian Games when he won the men’s doubles bronze with Mustafa Ghoush. He was a member of the Davis Cup squad in 2000 and 2002. While complimenting all the girls, Uppal picked out Sania Mirza — making a return to the squad after four years — for special praise.

“She [Sania] made the difference finally, not only because we won those two tight doubles against Chinese Taipei and Indonesia, but also with her positivity. She is fit now and she brought a new sense of belief that we can do it despite starting off with a loss against China,” Uppal said.

“Every day when we were against the wall, Sania gave us the belief that nothing is over and done till the end. And eventually we achieved what we came here for.”

India’s best previous Fed Cup performance came in 2006 when they were runners-up in the Asia/Oceania Group I. After making the play-offs in Latvia, India is just two tie wins away from competing in the 2021 Fed Cup Finals.

“The play-offs are still more than a month away. All the members of the squad will disperse now and then re-assemble depending on the travel situation to Latvia. But for the time-being, it is time to just celebrate and enjoy this moment. We have all worked hard to be here, and we truly deserve this,” he said.