Ankita Raina, India’s No. 1 women’s singles player, moved to a career high 169 in the ITF rankings after the victory at the $25,000 ITF Singapore Open tennis tournament (Pic: Courtesy Ankita Raina).
The opening month of the 2019 season has been bittersweet for Ankita Raina. Things began in disappointment for the India’s No. 1 women’s tennis player, when she narrowly missed making it into the main draw of the Australian Open in Melbourne. Raina, who played and lost the second round qualifier in Melbourne, then flew down to Singapore to play in the ITF $25,000 tournament — a back-up plan she had made in case she missed the cut in Melbourne.
The Plan B worked as Raina won her first ITF title of the season on January 20, beating second seed Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands in the final. The straight-sets victory over Rus earned the 26-year-old her fourth ITF career crown, and saw her jump up in the ITF rankings to a career-high 169. She was at No. 204 before the start of the tournament in Singapore.
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Raina is excited about the jump in rankings. The higher she climbs, the closer she gets to the main draw of the bigger tournaments, and subsequently, the Grand Slams. Of course, till she gets into the top 100 in the WTA rankings, she will have to go through the tough qualifying draws.
Though Raina’s target for the season is to gain as many ranking points as possible, she will continue focusing on the ITF circuit, playing one more tournament in Singapore and another in Thailand. She will then chart out a plan for the rest of the season, maybe even trying to make it to the main draw of a few smaller WTA events where the ranking points available would be much higher.
Looking back at the opening three weeks of the year, Raina told ESPN that it was quite a challenge for her to refocus after the disappointment of not making it into the Australian Open main draw.
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“I was thinking that I would be playing my third round of qualifiers at the Australian Open on my birthday (January 11), and would have qualified for the main draw,” she said.
But when that didn’t happen, she quickly set forth for Singapore. “Just because it was a 25k event, doesn't mean it was easy. Most of the players who were playing had been playing in the qualifiers of the Australian Open with me," Raina told ESPN, reiterating that it was not an easy road to victory for her.
Now, as she strives for bigger tournaments, things would get much tougher than the ITF series events and the opponents she is used to facing there. The Indian knows that and is also aware that she has two three more seasons at the most to make that leap or it would be too late. That’s exactly why she is keen on making 2019 count.
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