The captain of the Indian Fed Cup women’s tennis team that got relegated to Group II in the Asia-Oceania zone, Enrico Piperno, feels disappointed the team could not retain its place in Group I.
However, he praised Rutuja Bhosale and Rishika Sunkara for playing some good tennis, while No. 1 Kyra Shroff struggled with her game, but said they did not have it in them to play two good sets in succession against quality opposition like Kazakhstan and Thailand.
“They play one good set, but that obviously will not win them a match. They are not able to maintain the standard over two sets,” he observed.
Equally, he was critical about former National champion Rutuja, as he had expected a much better performance from her compared to last year.
“We lose out on players when they are 16. They do not improve because they don’t have a good plan. Rutuja was not playing the juniors on the international circuit, which was a big mistake. You can’t leave the juniors until you have reached the top 10,” said Piperno.
Pointing at the financial limitation, the captain said that talented players were finding it difficult to compete in many tournaments abroad.
“Most of their ranking points are made in India. They need to go out regularly and win points abroad to become better players. They need to play at least 20 weeks a year overseas. They are ranked low, and the standard of their game is lower than their rank,” he opined.
Piperno suggested ways to improve, but said it was not possible to make a difference as the players came in contact with him only once a year.
“I have spoken to Rutuja, Rishika and Ankita, telling them their weaknesses and what they need to do. But, generally there is no follow-up,” remarked Piperno.
He also mentioned that a place like Astana in Kazakhstan, which hosted the Fed Cup competition last week, had a dozen indoor courts. He said that Indian tennis needed better infrastructure and a good plan for player development.