Ankita Raina gears up for the season in Australia

Ankita Raina is off to Australia, to compete in the $25,000 ITF women’s tennis tournament in Bendigo, and prepare well for the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Ankita Raina is India's No.1 woman singles player.

Ankita Raina is India's No.1 woman singles player.   -  Getty Images

Ankita Raina is off to Australia, to compete in the $25,000 ITF women’s tennis tournament in Bendigo, and prepare well for the Australian Open in Melbourne.

The country’s No.1 woman singles player, the 26-year-old Ankita, ranked 180 in singles and 170 in doubles, is keen to lift the profile of Indian tennis.

‘’I hope in future, we take tennis to the next level the way our badminton players have done’’, she said, when contacted.

It may take some doing and a lot of time to match the spread and progress of Indian badminton, but Ankita is focused on her job, to improve upon the last season.

'One of the best years so far'

‘’I am very happy with what I could do last season. I think it has been one of the best years so far, even though winning the Asian Games medal in 2018 was very special. Last year had its own highlights. I think, playing all the four Grand Slams and winning against Grand Slam champion and finalist, Samantha Stosur and Sabine Lisicki is still fresh in my memory’’, said Ankita.

Those accomplishments had come in the first half of the season. Ankita beat Samantha Stosur 7-5, 2-6, 7-5 in the first round of the $125,000 event in Anning, China, in April. She beat Sabine Lisicki 6-3, 6-1 in the $100,000 tournament in Surbiton, before the German asserted her game in the second qualifying round of Wimbledon with a 6-1, 7-6(4) victory.

Ankita keeps it simple, in terms of the goals for the season. ‘’The goal this year is to play the main draw of all the four Grand Slams and eventually break into the top 100 in WTA rankings’’, she said.

To that end, Ankita has been able to strengthen her team. Yes, she will have a team for the Australian Open.

READ | Ankita Raina and the importance of travelling with a coach

‘’I have a good support team this time at the Australian Open. I am grateful that after all these years of struggle of travelling alone, I can finally travel with my team. Coach Hemant sir and Ketan sir, hitting partner, are travelling with me’’, she said.

Hemant Bendrey has been guiding Ankita for many years, and Ketan Dhumal will ensure that she is well prepared for her matches.

Even as she is thankful for the support and guidance, Ankita believes that she needs to believe in herself and her game a lot better to get to the next level.

She had closed the season nicely in the professional circuit by winning the singles title in the $25,000 event in Solapur.

‘’Honestly, with last couple of weeks, I am feeling that it is very close and everything just needs to come together, to click in any of the big events. Now that I have gained all the experience in the pro circuit, I feel one just needs to stay positive regardless of the results and keep working’’, she said.

Confident about Fed Cup

Ankita is understandably elated about Sania Mirza returning to the professional circuit after the birth of her son, and into the Indian Fed Cup team.

‘’Our chances of qualifying in the Fed Cup this time look very high, considering the doubles will be stronger with Sania’s come back. She comes with the aura. Everyone is inspired by her. So, her presence will give us an added advantage. Last couple of times, it wasn’t easy for us when we were not able to clinch the decider doubles’’, Ankita recalled.

ALSO READ | WTA Tennis: Ankita progresses in doubles

The taping of her knee towards the end of the season when she was competing in the Tennis Premier League in Mumbai, was a cause for concern.

‘’It wasn’t an injury because when my physios checked, they said that it was strain. I had been playing lots of tournaments back to back and trained as well, without giving my body the necessary rest. So, I rested, did rehab and now I am fit’’, she said.

It will be interesting to see how well Ankita gets off the blocks for the season, in pursuit of her goals.

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