Having tasted a singles medal in the last Asian Games in Palembang, Indonesia, the country’s No.1 woman tennis player, Ankita Raina is thirsting for gold this time.
“In Hangzhou, I will fight for the gold”, said Ankita, when the Indian squad left the Capital for China.
“Last time in the semifinals, I played close two sets. But the opponent (Zhang Shuai of China) was more experienced, even though I didn’t give it easy. I feel it is a great opportunity in Hangzhou”, said the 30-year-old Ankita.
Even though she missed winning a mixed doubles medal in 2018 with Rohan Bopanna, Ankita was quite thrilled with her singles bronze.
“It was a memorable one, as it was my first medal in the Games. It was followed by Dengue! It kind of made me understand how much it takes to get a medal in terms of the effort, physically, mentally and emotionally. It was a dream come true for me. All the hard work of my coach, team and sacrifices of my family paid off.”, said Ankita.
The mixed loss was indeed a jolt.
“It was unexpected and disappointing. I was confident alongside Rohan, but that is sports. The goal definitely is to get as many medals this time, especially gold. The experience from the last two Asian Games should help me”, observed Ankita.
It has been a lively season so far and Ankita has been competing well against top players and beating some of them.
“I am grateful that I have been able to compete at this level back-to-back, after last year when I was twice down with covid and had lost almost six months. It was tough to climb up all the way back. I have had close matches recently with good players and also couple of wins which has strengthened my belief. I have made a couple of changes and additions. I have also worked a bit differently on the fitness part which is showing on court”, she said.
In short, Ankita who was ranked a career-best 160 in singles in March 2020, and 93 in doubles in May 2021, is getting back to her best days on the court. She is 184 in singles and 150 in doubles at the moment. She has developed the ability to be at her best irrespective of the quality of opponents or the conditions.
“I think it is due to having situational awareness. Since last year, there have been so many events where I felt I didn’t have the control. From that, I have learnt to analyse what is happening and what is the best I can do in that situation, without being concerned about the consequences.”
“I believe that whatever happens, happens for the best, and give my 100 percent. After the covid situation last year, I learnt that there is a limit to how much people around can help. Only you know what needs to be done and nobody else can do it for you”, explained Ankita.
Having come close to qualifying for the US Open this time, Ankita feels that her best is yet to come.
“I truly believe that. I am not saying it just for the sake of saying. Some of the recent matches, wins, and the level of tennis I played have reinforced my belief that it is possible to be amongst the best. I mean it. Obviously, if I do more with my game, it will be terrific”, she opined.
Being able to have coach Anvit Bendre travel with her has been a big plus for Ankita.
“I had acchieved my career best rankings in singles and doubles before I had a travelling coach. To be able to do that grind again while working to get better at the same time is when having someone travel with me has helped. Also, mentally and emotionally, it helps a lot to have somebody with you, considering the amount I have traveled since last November.”
“I did have a bit of financial pressure while I was competing and traveling. It is good that I could manage somehow to take a coach with me during that period, and fortunate to have that kind of support. It definitely adds a different perspective.
As a player, you get too much into what is happening or not working. It is not easy to get a different approach or think completely out of the box when the match is in progress. A coach lends clarity in such situations”, she said.
There is sincerity, intelligence, enthusiasm, energy and experience in Ankita to ensure that she plays at her best in Hangzhou.
/ 3 years ago
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