Ankita Raina says that a couple of weeks in Uzbekistan taught her much more than she could have learned on the dusty courts back home in Pune. Playing Rushmi Chakravarthi in the pre-quarterfinal round of the ITF women’s USD 10,000 event in Delhi,the 20-year-old lost the first set 6-3. In the second set,the veteran Chakravarthi raced into a 3-0 lead. However,when most players would have thrown in the towel,Raina says that she just took a moment to reflect on her time in Indonesia and that seemed to do the trick.
“I just reminded myself that I had come back from positions that were far worse,a couple of weeks ago. I just focused on the point in hand and things just clicked. I just told myself to believe in my abilities and simple as that may sound,it worked like a charm,” she says. India’s highest-ranked player won the second set in the tie-breaker and then dismantled her opponent in the third to claim the deciding set 6-3.
Raina’s sudden love-affair with the central Asian country stems from the fact that she reached the finals of a USD 25,000 event in Karshi,Uzbekistan,in the beginning of June. She beat a slew of higher-ranked players on her way to the final and in the process learned a few valuable lessons. “It was the first 25k tournament of the year and I just aimed at clinching a quarterfinal berth. However,as I started winning,I told myself that I could be in with a chance. On-court patience is something that I have been working on and it really came together in Karshi,” she says.
Raina,who is known as a very aggressive player says that her quest to control her attacking instincts have given her fluency and consistency. “Earlier,I used to be in a hurry to finish a point. I wanted to hit my opponent out of the game. Now I work on softening up my opponent and waiting for an opening. The increase in patience also helped me think my moves through and allowed me to fight back effectively,” she says.
2013 has been a year in which Raina has often faltered after being in sight of the summit. Along with her loss in the Karshi final,she lost two consecutive ITF finals in Hyderabad in late March and another ITF final in Lucknow in April. Amidst all that,she was crowned the national grass-court champion and also added an ITF title to her kitty,blazing her way to victory in Chennai in April.
Having booked a quarterfinal berth against Prarthana Thombare on Thursday and a doubles semifinal appearance,life is good for the girl from Pune. However,Raina is not thinking too far ahead. “I need to finish this tournament well. Also,in tennis you need to win when you are having off-days. Luck won’t always favor you and grafting your way to success is very satisfying. I need to keep the intensity high because you never know when you are going to have an off day,” she says.