Ankita Raina, India’s top singles and doubles tennis player, feels she is on the right track post-COVID-19 despite her opening round loss to fifth seed Katerina Siniakova at the 23rd Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge late on Monday.
Now ranked No.180 on the WTA, the 27-year-old Raina did well to take the opening set But, the Indian made far too many unforced errors as the match progressed to go down 6-1, 2-6, 2-6 in more than two hours against her 24-year-old opponent from the Czech Republic.
“I’ve learnt a lot from this match. She’s a good player and to come so close against such players is always going to be a confidence-booster for players like me - who don’t get that many opportunities against the big names,” Raina told Gulf News.
“I had my chances of winning in two sets, but perhaps the lack of match practice didn’t help as well and I made too many unforced errors. Even though I lost, I know I’m not too far from my best game. I am on the right track for sure,” she added.
Currently India’s No. 1 in both women’s singles (since 2013) and doubles (since 2019), Raina was one of the stars who helped her country advance to one of the two Fed Cup spots on offer when the competition was held at the Dubai Tennis Stadium in the first week of March this year.
It was a historic moment as India advanced to the Fed Cup World Group play-offs for the first time along with Sania Mirza, Rutuja Bhosale, Riya Bhatia and Sowjanya Bavisetti.
The 27-year-old, who lives and trains in Pune has won one WTA 125k in doubles along with 11 singles and 17 doubles titles on the ITF Circuit. In April 2018, Raina entered the top-200 singles rankings for the first time, becoming only the fifth player representing India to achieve this feat.
After spending much of her time indoors, Raina made a comeback on the Tour after lockdown restrictions were eased down in September. Lacking crucial match practice, she made early exits in ITF tournaments in the Czech Republic and France. At the 2020 French Open, Raina advanced to the second qualifying round for the first time, but lost to Japan’s Kurumi Nara 3-6, 2-6.
“I played a very good first set today. I was hitting fast and deep which didn’t allow my opponent to do anything as she wasn’t able to stay in the points. I was serving well and setting up the points well,” Raina reflected.
“In the second set I lost a couple points very early. I was hitting well, but made some errors at the start and I was 1-3 down. That’s when she started getting more balls inside. In the third set, I was down 2-3 and had a couple of game points which could have made it 3-3. But that didn’t happen. In the end there were a few lessons here to learn,” she added.