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Don't bother about US passports if...

January 01, 2009 15:44 IST

India Fed Cup captain Enrico Piperno says players like Sunitha Rao and Shikha Uberoi should not worry about losing their US passports if they really want to represent India in international tennis events. 

Piperno is also unperturbed by the fact that India will end up fielding a weak team when it plays its next Fed Cup tie in February as it will be without Sunitha and Shikha.

Sunitha and Shikha were part of the Indian team in last year's Fed Cup Group I ties when India finished seventh in the eight-team competition.

These players have been rendered ineligible to be India's flag-bearers in international events due to a new government policy which says henceforth only Indian citizens will be allowed to represent the country.

"I am disappointed at losing a player (Sunitha) who is ranked 140-150 in world but you have to look at the big picture. They can find a way (getting an Indian passport) if they wish to play for India," Piperno told PTI.

"I have taken this in my stride. I am a very positive person and as the captain of the team, I will do whatever I can for the best of the team."

India are aiming to qualify for the World Group II play-offs when it competes in the Asia/Oceania zone Group I, in February in Perth, Australia.

Piperno said now was the time for other young players to grab the opportunity and make themselves count. 

"No doubt, this year the team will be weakened. And it goes without saying. Let's see how it goes. But Sunitha has not won many matches for the team.

"This is the time that players like Ankita, Sanaa Bhambri and Isha (Lakhani), who is a good prospect, climb the ladder and cross the hurdles."

Sunitha had lost all the three matches last year and Shikha and Isha had registered one win each. 

The non-playing captain also sounded optimistic about the progress of women's tennis in the country.

"The standard of Indian tennis has improved in the last two years. It is far better than what it was five years back. We saw a couple of young players in the national women's championship doing very well," Piperno said.

He was surprised by the announcement of the new policy by the government but did not find fault in it.

"Yes, it came as a surprise. But these are the guidelines of the government we have to follow and we have to live with it. It's sad that we (tennis) are affected by it but you have to look at the bigger picture.

"I think they have made a right decision... at the end of the day, we must try to develop local players," he said. 

Piperno said qualifying for the World Group II play-offs was a tough job but with Sania Mirza competing this year, India can hope to win matches.

"It will be tough. The Asia/Oceania zone is getting tougher but having Sania in the team is icing on the cake. She leads from the front and I am looking forward to work with a fit-again Sania," he said.

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