Rushmi Chakravarthi, the captain of the Indian under-16 girls’ team that finished fifth in the Asia Oceania Junior Fed Cup tennis tournament, said missing qualification, after being so close hurt the team.
On her return from Kuching, Malaysia, where India missed out on a semifinal spot and thus a chance to compete in the World Group in Mexico in September, Rushmi said that the players had lacked the confidence to capitalise on their ability. “When we finished fifth among 16 teams, the players realised what they had missed. That element of luck is most important,” said Rushmi.
India effectively lost the race when it finished second in the group behind Thailand, and faced top seed Australia in the quarterfinals.
Though it was Karman Kaur Thandi who missed two matchpoints against Thailand in the first singles, Rushmi was categorical that Thailand was a good team and the blame had to be shared by the team. “We were 6-3, 2-1 up in the doubles. We had our chances. But, our girls stopped communicating whenever one made a mistake. If you are the better player, you carry your partner,” observed Rushmi.
Doubles was not the strong point of the Indian team as the girls had not sharpened their net game, said Rushmi, who seemed disappointed that the girls did not hit the short ball and follow it up to the net, the way all good players from different teams did.
Yet, there were many moments that proved that the girls had the potential, like the way Karman beat the 22nd ranked junior in the world, Kimberly Birrell in the first singles, much to the shock of the Australians.
“Our girls have the tendency to swing at everything, rather than construct points. I asked Karman to slow down against the Aussie as the latter was hitting strong when the ball had pace. It worked.
“For a change, the Aussie girl was under pressure and tended to miss,” recalled Rushmi.
Without mincing words, Rushmi said that the Indian girls needed to work a lot on their physical fitness, which was put to a test of fire in the heat and humidity of Malaysia.
She also said that the girls needed to serve a lot better as it did not stand scrutiny under pressure.
“It is so different playing a team event like this as compared to playing the junior tournaments as an individual. You have to outsmart the opponents and win the matches for the team.
“It is not about how good you look, but how much you contribute to the team,” said Rushmi.
Having been a top professional tennis player in the country, winning 44 international titles around the world, including 33 in doubles, Rushmi said that she enjoyed her maiden experience of being the captain of the under-16 team, and hoped that the girls would emerge better with the experience.