Tennis player Ankita Raina has been on the professional circuit for good seven seasons and the 25-year-old is certainly India’s best bet in women’s singles since the time Sania Mirza bid adieu to the format in 2013, after a string of injuries.
One would argue that she doesn’t have enough tournament wins against her name to be called India’s best, but then there hasn’t been anyone who could challenge her position. There are a lot of names in the country that are thrown around, and are labelled as talented, but none of those players have really churned out performances, like Ankita has in the last few years. Be it the title winning performance at Pune in 2014, or the runner-up performance at Ahmedabad in 2015 and Lu’an, China in 2017, Ankita surely has a few feathers in her cap.
The most recent one being, win at the $25,000 ITF tournament in Gwalior, where she beat France’s Amandine Hesse 6-2, 7-5 in the final. This was her sixth singles title, and the first after almost a gap of three years. What makes this win a special one is the fact that it has come at a time that she was facing criticism for not being able to win tournaments.
Talking exclusively to News 18 Sports, Ankita said, “It’s always great to win a tournament. This is really special as it’s coming after a really long time, and this will help me achieve my goal of playing the qualifying events of the Grand Slams. This win is a great morale booster, and it will help me improve my ranking this year.”
If you see, it has been a good few weeks for me. In fact I did well at the Fed Cup too, where I had a win against top-100 player, and against a player just outside top-100. That makes me believe that I belong to the top level, and I’ll get there soon.”
Competing with players who have better facilities, better match practice and world-class infrastructure is no mean task, but Ankita on-and-off has shown glimpses that she can match them, or probably even be better than them. She also believes that it does take a bit of time for the Indians to get maturity in their game, and that’s why results are hard to come by. But seeing performances this year, it looks like Ankita is heading in the right direction.
“As compared to the Indians, players from traditional tennis powerhouses, like all the European nations, develop their game faster. Not only that, they physically develop before us, and have a really powerful game. It’s something beyond our control. But what’s important is that we eventually get to that level,” she added.
A regular on the singles and doubles circuit, Ankita wants to keep playing both and not just restrict herself to one category. Playing doubles helps her improve her singles game, and give a better understanding of the match situation. It is doubles that bails her out of trouble, if she is struggling to win in the singles.
“I don’t play doubles just for the sake of it but because it helps me improve my singles game. I remember when I was new in the senior category, I was struggling to get a few wins under my belt. Then I played a few doubles tournaments and started winning with Rushmi Charavarthi. Soon after that I had a good run in the singles, and made it to five finals. So doubles has always been a confidence builder for me.”
Ankita is happy about the way some of the youngsters like Karman Kaur Thandi are performing, and feels that she could bring laurels to the country. One thing Ankita abstains from doing is comparing herself to other players. The reason for that is she likes to focus on her game only.
“I wouldn’t call the upcoming players as competition. But they propel me to do better every time I step on the court. I like to focus on my game, and what I need to do on the court. That helps me do well,” she concluded.