World No.11 Na Li may not figure in singles, and the 25th ranked Zheng Jie, the women's champion in the last Asian Games in Doha, may be out with an injury, but coach Enrico Piperno assessed that the scenario would only show the strength of depth in Chinese tennis.
Conceding that the depleted Indian team would have a “mountain to climb” despite being spearheaded by the country's two best players in Somdev Devvarman and Sania Mirza, coach Piperno who had been associated with the Indian men's and women's teams for decades, assured that the Indian players would give their best despite the limitations.
The Chinese will field Zhang Shuai and Peng Shuai, ranked 93 and 95 respectively in the world, in women's singles, as per the nominations.
Zhang had beaten Sania recently in a tour event in Guangzhou itself while Peng has just won the singles title in the $100,000 Challenger in Taipei on Sunday.
There will also be top players like Tamarine Tanasugarn (61) of Thailand, Akgul Amanmuradova (69) of Uzbekistan, Ayumi Morita (76) of Japan, Yung-Jan Chan (81) of Chinese Taipei and Sesil Karatantcheva (140) of Kazakhstan figuring above the 165th ranked Sania in the field.
However, coach Piperno observed that tennis was more about approaching the task with confidence, and stressed that Sania thrived in team situations, a point she had emphasised in the last edition in Doha by becoming the first Indian tennis player ever, male or female, to reach the singles final.
She had also helped the Indian women's team reach the silver medal, and had clinched the mixed doubles gold with Leander Paes. The singles finalist of the recent Commonwealth Games may not have won a singles match thereafter on the circuit in three attempts, but had reached the doubles final in Taipei with Su-Wei Hsieh.
“Sania has the game. If she gets going with a few matches, she is capable of beating anybody in the strong field,” Piperno said.
With Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna lined up for the World Tour Finals in London, it may be tough to aspire for a gold in mixed doubles.
“We don't know who will be available. We will keep our fingers crossed,” said Piperno, about the mixed doubles combination.
Meanwhile, on his part Somdev Devvarman, the Commonwealth Games singles champion, ranked 96th in the world, will have players like Yen-Hsun Lu (33) of Chinese Taipei, Denis Istomin (43) of Uzbekistan, Mikhail Kukushin (58) of Kazakhstan, defending champion Danai Udomchoke of Thailand and Go Soeda (119) of Japan, among others.
Yuki not available
In the absence of Yuki Bhambri, the former junior world No.1, the fortunes of the Indian men's team will be in the hands of Vishnu Vardhan, Sanam Singh and Karan Rastogi.
While Vishnu will be leaving for Guangzhou with the coaches and women players, Poojashree Venkatesh, Rushmi Chakravarthi and Shivika Burman on Monday, the rest are scheduled to fly to China straight from the US.
Yet to get visa
Karan and Sanam are yet to get their Chinese visa, while Devvarman, Tara Iyer and Nirupama Sanjeev have got them. Sania was also scheduled to reach Guangzhou from Taipei.
The medals may be tough to get for the impoverished Indian tennis team, but as coach Piperno emphasised, “they will play their best tennis.”
Keywords: Asian Games