Ankita Raina wins title in Gwalior

Ankita Raina was intense and energetic as she danced her way to the title on quick feet and firm strokes in the $25,000 ITF women’s tennis tournament at the City Centre Tennis Complex on Saturday.

Ankita Raina with the singles trophy in the $25,000 ITF women's tennis tournament in Gwalior on Saturday.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

Ankita Raina was intense and energetic as she danced her way to the title on quick feet and firm strokes in the $25,000 ITF women’s tennis tournament at the City Centre Tennis Complex on Saturday.

The fourth seeded Ankita tamed the second seed Amandine Hesse of France 6-2, 7-5, asserting her strong all-round game, without dropping serve, despite facing five breakpoints in four different games right from the start to finish.

“I am happy with the way I played the tournament, especially the final against a quality player. I did not focus on the score as I was reaching the finishing line. I am glad that everything fell in place. Maturity comes with time. As long as it comes, it is fine,’’ said the 25-year-old Ankita, quite thrilled with her second title at this level.

The victory was worth $3919 and 50 WTA points. Amandine collected $2091 and 30 WTA points.

Ankita had won the $25,000 singles title the last time in Pune in 2014. Even Amandine, five days younger to Ankita and who had beaten her in straight sets in the quarterfinals of the $125,000 WTA event in Mumbai last year, had last won a similar title in 2013.

Understandably, quite eager, Amandine was frustrated and angry when things did not go her way, and she could not break the smooth rhythm and fluent play of Ankita. Yet, there was no doubt about the quality of her game, as the French girl tried everything to find an opening in the climax, to get into the match, before Ankita slammed the door on her face.

Once Ankita saved a breakpoint in the 11th game and held serve, the French girl broke, dropping her serve for the first time in the second set.

Ankita had broken serve in the fourth and eighth games of the first, while saving breakpoints in the first and fifth.

“Amandine is a very tricky player. She doesn’t give you pace. She drags you inside the court and makes you play the way she wants. I learnt from playing her the last time. She may be angry, frustrated but fights all the time. I kept my calm and focused on the point,” remarked Ankita, who would rest for a week before going to Japan for more tournaments.

Ankita said that she was confident of a good performance, once she had handled the first two matches. In fact, the second match was a tough one and Ankita pulled through in three sets against Berfu Cengiz of Turkey.

The 255th ranked Ankita, looking to break into the top-200 and get into the Grand Slam qualifying draws, was quite alert and changed her racquet soon after the new balls were taken in the second set. She played according to the demands of the situation and executed her game with conviction.

Ankita thanked her long-time coach Hemant Bendre, apart from physio Rutuja Patange who accompanied her for the tournament, and trainer Gaurav Nijhon.

She was equally grateful to her employer ONGC and the Gujarat government which has been helping her compete around the world on a regular basis.

“I just focused on playing quality shots. I am glad that I could maintain it. I fell short in some games, but overall am proud. I am getting better. I believe in my game a lot more. Achieving my goal and dream is not far,’’ Ankita assured.

The results (final): Ankita Raina bt Amandine Hesse (Fra) 6-2, 7-5.