Ankita Raina and Karman Kaur Thandi: 'Combination and communication' key to good partnership

Doubles partners Ankita Raina and Karman Kaur Thandi agree that they complement each other well; Raina has the on-court “maturity” while Karman has “observational” skills.

Prospering partnership: Ankita Raina (left) and Karman Kaur Thandi have deciphered a few things about each other, which they feel are yielding success.   -  Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

The doubles partnership between Ankita Raina and Karman Kaur Thandi has prospered, agree the two players, because they complement each other well. Raina has the on-court “maturity” while Karman has “observational” skills.

The players first nailed their career’s maiden WTA doubles title in Taipei before uniting to win the Pune Open last week, making it two trophies in a row. While they haven’t set a timeline for their partnership, good results can make their march unstoppable. Given that they are positioned in the rankings close to each other — currently just outside the 200-mark — there is a possibility there is a possibility they will opt to play the same events.

‘Communication key’

The two players have deciphered a few things about each other, which they feel are yielding success. “In Taipei itself, we felt that combination and communication was at [a] different level than what we had with other players. That is what is required to do well. When we lose a point, at that time, communication is key,” said 25-year-old Ankita.

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“Sometimes a player has an off day and on that day, the other has to carry the partner,” she added.

Karman elaborated: “[For example, if] I missed an easy ball — a stupid ball — she would say we won’t be angry at each other and stay positive. And as it happened, we were down in most of the Super Tie breakers (in Taipei) and we pulled it off.”

‘Understanding each other’s game’

So what is it that they find unique in each other, which they could not find in other partnerships? “Her maturity on the court; she handles the pressure situations well and keeps me positive. And the main thing is understanding each other’s game and using that to our strength,” said Karman.

Career high: Ankita Raina (left) and Karman Kaur Thandi claimed their first WTA doubles title in Taipei.

 

Ankita said Karman is receptive of her ideas. “I know some of the players (on Tour) already and if I suggest a certain style of play, she [would be] ready to listen and accept that. Some players do not do that,” she said.

Ankita, the Asian Games silver-medallist, also recalled how Karman, on an occasion, could judge that one of the coaches was helping their rival players from outside. “She observed that the coach was clapping in different ways at different times and our rivals would either go for lines or move up a bit, accordingly. I don’t know if that actually was the case but she thought of it and we played points accordingly,” she said.

The language comfort

Moreover, the fact that the two speak the same language is comforting for the players. The two lighten up the mood by playing Punjabi songs ahead of their on-court assignment. “Dancing in the locker room on Punjabi songs to get ready for the match is the new thing we are doing. We do funny things during warm-ups. I play songs like ‘Morni Ban key’, ‘Selfie’ and ‘Punjabi Mutiyaar’ on my phone,” said Karman.

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“We both like dancing; once the music is on, it is natural,” said Ankita, adding, “I think it will continue.”

The 20-year-old Karman, who thrives on baseline play, is now even getting better in handling pressure situations. “Every aspect has to improve and we keep working on strengths. Serve is a big weapon and my backhand has got better. The goal is to play Grand Slam (Qualifiers) next year and get into top-150. On deuce points or super tie-break when I was serving, I knew I can serve big and get these two points,” Karman said, talking about the close matches in the tourney in Taipei.

“It comes with experience, playing more matches. It was 9-8 for us and she served. We got so many games from being 0-40 down from 15-40 down,” said Ankita, backing her partner.