New Delhi: Ankita Raina prevailed over her rival in a dog-fight after Karman Kaur Thandi's impressive win as India retained their place in the Asia/Oceania Group I in the Fed Cup after beating Chinese Taipei 2-0 in the relegation play-off here on Saturday.
Rising to the occasion, Karman produced a 7-6(4), 6-3 win over a crafty Lee Pei-Chi to hand India a 1-0 lead in the do-or-die tie.
Ankita, who had played some incredible matches against higher-ranked rivals, then ran into a wily left-hander Chieh-Yu Hsu, who is ranked at a humble 377 but forced Ankita to play out of her skin.
Eventually, after an energy-sapping two hour and 54 minutes, Ankita emerged a 6-4, 5-7, 6-1 winner to ensure that India remain in Group I.
Japan qualified for the World Group play-off after beating Kazakhstan 2-1. Both Japan and Kazakhstan had remained unbeaten in their Pools.
Ankita remained unbeaten in her singles matches in the competition, winning all her four matches.
Running into an opponent who, being a left-hander, fed Ankita a lot of angled balls to her backhand, the Indian girl had to re-work strategy as she was unable to hit the balls deep.
It was a tactic which had paid her good dividends in previous matches but playing on a slower court made her job tough as hitting the ball hard was never enough.
With almost every ball coming back and no free points available, Ankita had to dig deep to find a way in breaking the solid defense of her opponent.
It was incredibly a superior game for a player, ranked just 377. To Ankita's credit she kept herself in the match with perseverance.
The Indian No. 1 took some time to settle as she fended off four breakpoints in the opening game itself but dropped serve when she hit a forehand wide on the fifth.
A volley winner gave Ankita a chance to get the break back but could not convert. It was the first time in the competition that Ankita was down 0-2 in a match. However, she won three games in a row to take 3-2 lead, breaking Hsu in the fourth game.
She broke Hsu again in the eighth for a 5-3 lead. But Hsu was not ready to throw in the towel and broke back. The Indian though sealed the set when the Taipei player made two unforced errors.
The fight became intense in the second set, which was fought tooth and nail for one hour and 22 minutes.
Hsu broke Ankita in the fifth and then saved three breakpoints in the next game across eight deuce points. It was now turn of Ankita to save a few deuce points as she saved two break points in the next game.
After breaking Hsu twice, Ankita saved two set points to make it 5-5 but lost serve in the 11th and the Taipei player served out the set in the 12th.
Hsu took a medical timeout to treat her left shoulder immediately after drawing parity. It sort of broke her momentum and Ankita ran away with the win, going all out.
Earlier, Lee not only struck the balls hard and clean but also was very crafty. She stayed in control of the points on her serve, making it hard for the local girl. In the entire match, it never looked like Lee is a player ranked outside 450
Karman, ranked 284, played much better than her previous matches but her game kept going up and down. She served well on the slower show court and perhaps had her best serving day of the competition.
Her serve came good on crucial points, which was a key factor in her big win. She also played bigger points much better than previous days.