Sania blow for India
India's chances of reaching the next stage of the Federation Cup have been dealt a major blow with the late withdrawal of Sania Mirza.
India's top-ranked female player, having reached a peak of 27 in late 2007, Mirza was expected to spearhead India's challenge in the Asia-Oceania play-offs here this week.
However, she was back in India when her reduced three-woman side started their first tie against New Zealand here on Wednesday.
Mirza's comeback from the wrist problems that dogged her in 2008 gathered momentum when she combined with Mahesh Bhupathi to win the mixed doubles at the Australian Open -- becoming the first Indian woman to win a grand slam title in the process.
She was named in the four-strong Indian Fed Cup squad for the play-offs, but cited a stomach strain for her withdrawal.
"Right now, I will be taking a week's rest because of a tear in my abdominal muscle before beginning preparations for the Thailand and the Dubai Opens," she said at a media conference in Hyderabad on Tuesday.
"It is the biggest honour to play for your country. But unfortunately this injury came up.
"My body held up pretty well during the grand slam but I am not yet ready for a long, demanding schedule."
Mirza's previous trip to Perth, to play for India at the mixed teams Hopman Cup at the start of last year, ended in controversy when she was widely criticised in her homeland after being photographed with her bare feet resting near an Indian flag.
Her absence has left India with just three players for the event, which features eight nations, split into two groups, in round robin ties including two singles matches and a doubles clash, over three days before the top side from each division meets in Saturday's final.
The Indian team is world No.377 Abkita Bhambri, Sanaa Bhambri (478) and Rushmi Chakravarthi (509).
The winner of Saturday's final advances to the World Group II play-offs in April.
The other nations in the Asia-Oceania play-offs are Australia, Thailand, Taiwan, Uzbekistan, Indonesia and Korea.