Mumbai Open will be a learning experience for the Indians

For players, mostly competing in the $10,000 events, it is a gigantic step to keep in pace with the professionals in such a big event, but the exposure should give them invaluable lessons, to step up their standard.

Ankita Raina and Rutuja Bhosale walking towards the Cricket Club of India (CCI) tennis courts for the $125,000 WTA tournament in Mumbai on Saturday.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

When Elina Svitolina won the $125,000 WTA event, held last time in India in Pune in 2012, she was aged 18, and ranked around 150, with dreams of making it big.

Five years later, when the $125,000 WTA event returns to India here in Mumbai, the 23-year-old Svitolina has reached No. 6 in the world.

Rutuja Bhosale, who had won the Asian junior title when she was 15, could eke out only three games a year later from Svitolina in the second round then in Pune.

Even though Ankita Raina and Karman Kaur Thandi have been trying to highlight the improvement in Indian women’s tennis, after Sania Mirza quit singles, Indian women’s tennis has been struggling to make an impact on a slightly higher stage.

It was thus no surprise that quality players like former Asian junior champion Pranjala Yadlapalli, national champion Riya Bhatia, national runner-up Nidhi Chilumula, and Natasha Palha with her quick feet, could not make much of an impact in the qualifying event at the CCI Courts here on Saturday.

Against the hungry professionals like top seed Ana Bogdan, ranked 111, second seed Deniz Khazaniuk of Israel, fifth seed Alize LIm of France, seventh seed Anna Morgina of Russia, the four Indian girls could win a total of eight games.

For players, mostly competing in the $10,000 events, it is a gigantic step to keep in pace with the professionals in such a big event, but the exposure should give them invaluable lessons, to step up their standard.

As coach Aditya Sachdeva pointed out, "the girls need to think on their feet," to tackle their opponents and tough conditions.

The slow courts with high bounce really made the Indian girls feel like fish out of water. Riya Bhatia could not capitalise on a strong start when she won the first three games.

Nidhi could convert only two of 12 breakpoints, whereas the 337th ranked Morgina, who has won all her 16 singles titles in Egypt in the lowest rung of the ITF women’s circuit, apart from 28 doubles titles, converted seven of 13 breakpoints.

The results:

Qualifying singles (first round): Ana Bogdan (Rou) bt Pranjala Yadlapalli 6-0, 6-0; Naiktha Bains (Aus) bt Cornelia Lister (Swe) 6-2, 6-0; Denia Khazaniuk (Isr) bt Natasha Palha 6-1, 6-0; Zhang Ling (Hkg) bt Oksana Kalashnikova (Geo) 4-6, 6-1, 6-1; Hiroko Kuwata (Jpn) bt Naoko Eto (Jpn) 6-0, 6-0; Anna Morgina (Rus) bt Nidhi Chilumula 6-1, 6-3; Julia Glushko (Isr) bt Ksenia Palkina (Kgz) 6-3, 6-2; Alize Lim (Fra) bt Riya Bhatia 6-3, 6-0.