Putting up a gutsy show, Ankita Raina gave a scare to world number 29 Qiang Wang after Rutuja Bhosale suffered defeat in the first singles as India lost the Fed Cup tie against China after conceding an unassailable 0-2 lead, in Dubai on Tuesday.
Rutuja fought her heart out before losing 4-6 2-6 to world number 35 Shuai Zhang in the first singles. The onus to bring the team back in the contest was on India number one Ankita and she stunned her rival by taking the first set in a jiffy but eventually lost 6-1 2-6 4-6 after battling hard for two hours and 24 minutes.
The doubles rubber has been rendered inconsequential. India will take on Uzbekistan on Wednesday.
Ankita was up against someone, who had defeated Serena Williams in the third round of the Australian Open in January. The Indian had a break chance in the fourth game but the Chinese saved that with an ace. Ankita kept the pressure with her sharp returns and converted the second chance to go up 3-1.
After an easy hold, Ankita consolidated her position by breaking Qiang at love and served out the set, much to the surprise of the gathering. She broke the Chinese in the first game of the second set but required a medical time out soon after. It broke the momentum and she went on to lose the second set.
However, she is not the one who throws the towel easily. Twice she broke her superior rival but her effort could not take her past the finish line as she lost the decisive third set.
Earlier, the 23-year-old Rutuja from Pune led 3-1 with an early break of serve but Shuai showed why she is a top-50 player as the Chinese won the match 6-4 6-2 in one hour and 16 minutes. Shuai, who reached the Australian Open third round where she lost to eventual champion Sofia Kenin, broke Rutuja early in the second set to race to a 3-1 lead and never looked back.
To her credit, the 433rd ranked Rutuja gave her all in the contest as captain Vishal Uppal preferred her ahead of higher-ranked Riya Bhatia (388), who is yet to play a singles match in Fed Cup.
Riya lost the two doubles matches she played in 2017 (against China) and 2019 (against Kazakhstan).
The top two teams in the six-nation Asia/Oceania Group I will qualify for the Play-offs, to be held next month.
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