The schedule for Monday was bound to be tricky for Ankita Raina. To start with, the organizers of the W100 ITF event in Surbiton, England, had scheduled a second match on the same day for all the winners of the opening round of qualifiers. That meant that India’s no 1 had to play tie hours after beating Frenchwoman Myrtille Goerges. But what made Raina’s task all the more complex was that her next opponent was the explosive but volatile Sabine Lisicki.
Lisicki’s name is no mystery in the tennis world. Six years ago, the German, who had reached as high as 12th in the world, was a Wimbledon finalist. But a string of injuries and a torrid run of form robbed her of the consistency needed to make it to the higher levels.
Raina, in turn, has been growing in consistency as she looks to break into the top 100. And just hours after playing her first match on grass for the season, she ousted the big German 6-3, 6-1.
The big-name scalp comes just over a month after the 26-year-old had beaten 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur. And just as she did against the veteran Australian, it was the world no 170’s execution of specific tactics that helped get the win.
“The main change was in Ankita’s second serve,” says coach Hemant Bendrey. “Normally her second serve is slow because she looks for placement. But now she was switching the speed and going for more angles. That way Sabine couldn’t anticipate what was coming.”
The win comes at the back of positive results in the past few months. Before the win against Stosur, Raina had reached the final of a W60 ITF event in Turkey. A rise in the rankings – her career best is 164 – meant a spot in the qualifiers of the French Open, which she failed to progress past after an opening round loss to American Cori Gauff.
But Raina has shifted her focus now to the grass season. Last year she had reached the second round of qualifiers at Wimbledon. And with a growing list of wins over big-name opponents, she’s building up the momentum to achieve her immediate target – make it to her first main draw appearance at a Grand Slam.