Last week, Ankita Raina became India’s first WTA champion since Sania Mirza, when she won the doubles title at Phillip Island Trophy in Melbourne partnering with Russia’s Kamila Rakhimova. The 28-year-old spoke to  Sportstar  about her memorable time in Australia, during which she made her Grand Slam main draw debut and broke into the top-100 in doubles.

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Excerpts :

How happy are you following your maiden win?

It means a lot. Winning a tournament at this level for the first time gives you great confidence. I have many fun memories on the court with my partner. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

You are the third woman after Sania Mirza and Shikha Uberoi to enter the top-100 in doubles while representing India. How is the feeling?

I feel proud and honoured. It’s because of the hard work of my team and the sacrifices of my family that I have got this far. My goal is to play the main draw of all Slams this year. I was able to do it once in doubles. Now I want to do it in singles and break into the singles top-100 just like how I did in doubles.

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How will this result change things and will you start expecting more from your doubles play?

I’ve always played both doubles and singles in the juniors and pro circuit, and doubles has always helped my singles game and performance. So, I don’t think it’ll put more pressure. How it will change things…. I feel the same [success] will follow in singles soon!

How was the overall Australian Open experience, starting from the qualifiers in Dubai?

It’s been such a learning experience. So many mixed emotions and many firsts. In Dubai, I got to the final qualifying round [in singles] and lost a close match. It was the farthest I’d gone in a Slam. I enjoyed my hits during quarantine with my cohort partner. Also having one of my coaches from my academy, Utsav Mukherjee, really helped and I’m thankful to him.

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Is this the best start you have had to a season? How are you looking to build on it?

Yes. I made the main draw of a Slam. So definitely it’s been the best and winning my first WTA! Going forward, I’m going to speak to my coach and tell him about the things I noticed in my game that needs work. The idea is to keep continuing the process.