India’s top-ranked women’s singles tennis player Ankita Raina is flying high after beating 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur of Australia at the ITF Challenger, China last Wednesday. Ankita put up a spell-binding performance in the process of defeating a much experienced player. Since then she is eyeing only one goal…the Olympics.
“It was like time paused and I was just trying to take in what had just happened,” the 178th-ranked Raina recalls the feeling after the biggest win of her career. “Then I saw her approaching the net, so I quickly went to shake hands and she said, ‘good match,'” she added, ESPN reported.
Raina’s brilliantly paced energy gave her the 7-5, 2-6, 7-5 win, which came in two hours, 51 minutes.
Talking about her experience with opponents after a match, she said, “Sometimes players don’t even shake hands properly after losing. I think that matters and tells a lot about her as well. And after the handshake, when I went to my chair, I had a flashback in front of my eyes of all these years and had a rush of all the emotions and so I started weeping.”
Raina has risen to her career-best rank, following the footstep of Nirupama Vaidyanathan and Sania Mirza as the only Indian women to be ranked inside the top 200 in tennis.
“I think the key here is that I’ve started believing more in the work put in by me and my team. I have faith in our practice and training,” says Raina. She had also troubled the former world No.4 Stosur in their only previous meeting in Dubai last year.
“Whatever my coach [Hemant Bendrey] asks me to do, I do it with firm belief that this will improve my performance. When I played her [Stosur] in Dubai, my coach was there for the match since he was travelling with me. So, he already knew about her game and also had an idea about her recent matches. When I was getting ready to return Stosur’s serve, I knew somewhere inside that I’ve put in the effort and I was sure of making good returns,” she continued.
An Asian Games medallist in 2018, Raina has had a fabulous year so far. She won a singles title in Singapore in January, and a runner-up finish in Istanbul in April.
The very serene tennis star now targets the Olympics. The qualification will depend on an improved singles ranking. Raina won bronze in Palembang, with China’s Wang Qiang’s gold winning her the continental spot in women’s singles for the Olympics. Only top 56 ranked players will get a chance of qualifying.
A confident Raina says she will “leave no stone unturned” in achieving her dream of qualifying for Tokyo 2020.
“There’s no limit to patience because as much as you have it, it’s really helpful because we compete day in and day out and the result is not something in your hand,” says Raina adding that “Sometimes you play really good but lose, and other times you play awful but you still win, so in both situations, we just need to take the positives regardless of the result and move ahead.”
Feature Image Credit: NDTV