WTA Mumbai Open: Massive opportunity for Indian players

Indian players Zeel Desai, Rutuja Bhosale, Ankita Raina and Karman Kaur Thandi have a massive opportunity in the form of the WTA Mumbai Open tournament this week.

Photo of Indian players Zeel Desai, Rutuja Bhosale, Ankita Raina and Karman Kaur Thandi, striking a happy frame on the eve of the $125,000 Mumbai Open WTA tennis tournament on Sunday.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

It was not Billie Jean King, giving a speech about "pressure is a privilege". It was Karman Kaur Thandi, the brightest hope of Indian women’s tennis, answering about competing in the L&T Mumbai Open, $125,000 WTA tennis tournament, from Monday.

The 19-year-old Karman, who has swiftly climbed to be the No. 2 singles player in the country with a rank of 312, said that she had gained a lot from the training stint at the Mouratglou Academy in France, thanks to the support and guidance of Mahesh Bhupathi.

When she said "pressure is a privilege", in a media interaction on Sunday, Karman showed that she was getting sound education, not merely to be a super athlete on the tennis court.

Having reached the final of the $25,000 ITF women’s event recently in Pune, the towering Delhi girl was brimming with confidence, when she was drawn to play with Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia.

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Not just Karman, but the other three wild card entrants, Ankita Raina, Rutuja Bhosale and Zeel Desai, said that they would compete hard and give their 100 per cent, on every point, irrespective of being drawn against a qualifier or a seeded player.

Appreciating Karman’s rise in recent months, the 24-year-old Ankita Raina said that the quality of women’s tennis was a lot higher than a few years ago, when she was ranked a career best 222. She said that she expected to jump 20 places and reach top-200 easily.

Even though she missed the cut-off for direct acceptance narrowly, the 281st ranked Ankita said that she was happy with the quality of her game and she possibly needs guidance in terms of achieving mental toughness to hit the next level.

Drawn to play Veronika Kudermetova of Russia, Ankita said that the first round was always difficult, and it was possibly better to play a seeded player, like Zeel Desai, who had drawn the seventh seed Carol Zhao of Canada.

Fully equipped with the education and training from the US, the former Asian junior champion Rutuja Bhosale, who had won a round as a 16-year-old in the same event when it was held in Pune in 2012, said that she was getting better with every tournament. Incidentally, she is also guided like Ankita by coach Hemant Bendrey.

The 21-year-old Rutuja will open against qualifier Deniz Khazniuk of Israel. She said that the tournament was a great opportunity for players to raise in rankings.

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Zeel’s coach Todd Clark said that it was important for juniors not to "try too hard" in such events, and just play their game, which would be their strength.

There may not be much difference to the strength of the players, as Ana Bogdan of Romania, who came through two rounds of qualification, dropping a solitary game, was seeded No. 2 in the main draw, behind Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium and Arina Rodionova of Australia will be two of the other top players, ready to render a lesson or two.

With seven Indian players getting into the doubles draw, all of them with Indian partners except Prarthana Thombare who will compete with Hiroko Kuwata of Japan, there will be lot to watch for the Indian fans.

The seedings: 1. Aryna Sabalenka (Blr), 2. Anna Bogdan (Rou), 3. Yanina Wickmayer (Bel), 4. Arina Rodionova (Aus), 5. Naomi Broady (GBR), 6. Lizette Cabrera (Aus), 7. Carol Zhao (Can), 8. Irina Khromacheva (Rus).

The results: Qualifying singles (second and final round): Ana Bogdan (Rou) bt Naiktha Bains (Aus) 6-0, 6-1; Deniz Khazaniuk (Isr) bt Zhang Ling (Hkg) 7-5, 6-4; Hiroko Kuwata (Jpn) bt Anna Morgina 7-5, 6-4; Alize Lim (Fra) bt Julia Glushko (Isr) 6-0, 6-3.