Ankita Raina continued her red-hot form with a fluent win after Karman Kaur Thandi's erratic victory as India blanked Hong Kong 3-0 in the Fed Cup in New Delhi on Friday.
Karman struggled to contain her unforced errors but prevailed 6-3, 6-4 over Eudice Chong to give India a 1-0 lead in the Asia/Oceania Group I matches.
Up against a lower-ranked opponent, placed a humble 761 in the WTA list, Karman snapped a four-match losing streak. The last time she won a Fed Cup match was exactly a year back when she travelled to Astana, Kazakhstan.
Ankita, who has impressed with her inspirational performance against higher-ranked players, then overcame Ling Zhang 6-3, 6-2 to seal India's first win of the 2018 season.
In the inconsequential doubles, Prarthana Thombare and Pranjala Yadlapalli defeated Kwan Yau Ng and Ching Hu Wu 6-2, 6-4.
The last time India won a tie 3-0 was in February 2016, against Kazakhstan in Thailand.
On Saturday, India will play Chinese Taipei, the fourth-placed team in Pool B in the relegation Play-off. The winner will remain in Group I and the loser will be relegated to Group II.
The last time India played Chinese Taipei was in February 2011 in Thailand and lost 1-2.
Despite playing some energy-sapping matches in the last two days, Ankita did not let the intensity drop as she kept grinding from the baseline and found some delightful winners.
She did not lose a single point on her serve in the first two games and after breaking Zhang in the fourth game, Ankita staved off four breakpoints in the fifth to take a 4-1 lead.
The break stayed with her as she closed the set in the ninth.
To Zhang's credit, she did play intelligent tennis, often catching Ankita by surprise with her well-calculated drop shots.
Zhang, ranked 331, also returned well.
Ankita hit a service return winner to earn two breakpoints and converted the first when Zhang hit a backhand wide to take an early lead in the second set.
She had as many as nine breakpoints to open up a huge lead but a dogged Zhang saved all of them. Ankita created opportunities with several winners at deuce points but every time Zhang came out with deep, angled returns to deny Ankita conversion.
Zhang changed tactics and started feeding loop balls, taking the pace off the ball and letting it bounce high, but Ankita countered the strategy nicely and broke her in the seventh game for a 5-2 lead.
Serving for the match, Ankita faced two breakpoints but saved both to seal the tie for India.
Earlier, Karman, who played much better on Thursday, against a high-quality opponent, remained erratic throughout. Against a better opponent she would have struggled badly.
Break of serve was order of the match as both players struggled to hold. Karman lost her serve thrice and Chong, who flew from the US to compete for the country, dropped serve five times in the contest.
Aditya Sachdeva, who has coached Karman from her childhood but has not worked consistently since she was training away, agreed that she needs to work on the mental part of her game.
"She needs to play bigger points better. At 15-30 or 15-140 when you can hit the opponent psychologically she gives away free points. It comes with," Sachdeva, who has again started working with Karman, told PTI.
"But the good thing is she is quick learner and implements in match. We worked on her serve yesterday and it showed in the match. Ankita Bhambri also worked and that has helped her in today's match."
Sachdeva also felt that playing for country has its own pressure and that has not allowed Karman to play as freely as she can.
"It's different when you are playing Fed Cup in India. I found nothing wrong in her game today. She is only 19 and will mature. She is stringer and much better now.
"She also grew by a few inches in the last few months and it hampers your movement," he assessed.
IMAGE: Ankita Raina
Photograph: Ankita Raina/Twitter