Ankita Raina ‘getting better with every match’ - Bhambri

Ankita Bhambri, the captain and coach of the Indian women’s team, is delighted at the feat of the 25-year-old at the Asian Games.

Rising star: Ankita Raina’s march wasn’t hindered by the hot and humid conditions in Indonesia.   -  PTI

It was a breakthrough performance by Ankita Raina that won her the ladies singles’ bronze at the Asian Games behind Shuai Zhang and Wang Qiang, two of the top Chinese players. The 25-year-old Raina had given a good account of her game earlier in the Fed Cup and has been playing well in the professional circuit, winning titles in singles and doubles. It was, therefore, no surprise that she delivered a medal.

Ankita Bhambri, the captain and coach of the Indian women’s team, was understandably delighted to see a fleet-footed Raina quell the challenge from players who had beaten her in the past. “Beatrice Gumulya had beaten Ankita in the quarterfinals of the Asian Indoor Games, [and] Eri Hozumi had beaten [her] in the last Asian Games. Ankita was able to beat them both comfortably this time. She is very confident, and getting better with every match. She enjoyed playing on these courts, even though the conditions were quite challenging, especially because it was very hot and humid,” recalled Bhambri.

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Further emphasising Raina’s fluent mobility and strokeplay, Bhambri said, “Ankita has been able to move so well and get that one extra ball back, which put so much pressure on her opponents. Even in the semifinal against the top seed Shuai Zhang, Ankita played a very good match, and had set point at 5-4 in the second set. Those players know how to get out of tough situations and thus with her experience the Chinese won that match.”

Upward curve

Incidentally, Bhambri was the captain of the Indian team at the Asian Indoor Games as well as the Fed Cup and she could see Raina’s improvement in her playing standard in the last few months. Bhambri also praised Rohan Bopanna for playing well in the mixed doubles with Raina, and pulling the team out of trouble in the initial rounds.

When asked about Prarthana Thombare’s absence in mixed doubles, Bhambri said the players had gauged the combination during training and that the top-ranked players had had a say in deciding whom they wanted to partner.

Bhambri also appreciated the performance of Rutuja Bhosale and Pranjala Yadlapalli, who provided gritty resistance to a very strong team in women’s doubles. “Rutuja and Pranjala played very well. They were unlucky to meet such a strong Thai team early,” Bhambri said.

‘Great potential’

The wiry Karman Kaur Thandi, who lost in the singles pre-quarterfinals in the third set tie-break and the mixed doubles pre-quarterfinals with Divij Sharan in the super tie-break, had done a good job in her maiden appearance at the Games. Bhambri said, “Karman is only 20, and had not been part of any multi-discipline Games so far. It was a new experience for her. This will help her become stronger, as she has great potential,” said Bhambri.

Two-time National champion Riya Bhatia did not get to play a match, but Ankita Bhambri said that every member of the team benefited from the energising experience of the Games.