Indian Tennis

Reaching her first WTA quarters, Ankita Raina showed her improved game sense and agility

The 24-year-old known for her power hitting, mixed things up brilliantly to outclass Thailand’s Peangtarn Plipuech 6-2, 6-2.

As soon as she clinched the match point on Thursday, Ankita Raina fist-pumped the air and then touched the court in the traditional gesture of taking blessing.

She acknowledged the crowd, a larger one than her first-round match, and then covered her face for a few moments. The sentiment was apparent – after all the 24-year-old had reached the quarter-finals of a WTA Tour event for the first time after beating Thailand’s Peangtarn Plipuech 6-2, 6-2 in the second round of the L&T Mumbai Open.

“I really wanted to win this one, I knew it was a good draw for WTA and I wanted to move forward in the tournament. When I won the last point, I had all these mixed feelings, I didn’t know if I was going to cry or what. It took a while for it to sink in, even after I walked out of the court, that ‘yes I did it’,” a delighted Raina said after the match.

This win also means that Raina will reclaim her position as the top-ranked women’s singles player in the country, one she has held for about three years and relinquished just this week to Karman Kaur Thandi. She has hovered around the 250-300 mark in the WTA rankings for long enough but has not quite made the push in the WTA arena.

But as the 24-year-old beat two opponents with two very different styles in a span of two days, her experience on the toiling tennis circuit showed. Travelling on her own for almost 10 years, she put all her versatility into action against the tricky Thai player.

Experience showed

If in the first round against world No 233 Veronika Kudermetova, Raina responded to power with power, she played a more patient game in the second round, going for precision and angles over big-hitting, without letting her intensity drop.

If her swift winners were the highlight of the first match, her smart variations were the talking point of the second. From full-blooded winners to down-the-line crackers and a few crafty drops, Raina looked to play every shot on its merit, no matter where it was placed.

“Since I played her I knew she is a smart player who has a lot of variations. She runs down a lot of balls so I had to play smart and do some variations of my own, because she can run side-to-side and just get the balls back. The balls here get heavier and slower, so it’s difficult to just hit and finish the game,” Raina said analysing the game.

“She then suddenly changed her game and tried to put the balls higher so I couldn’t attack. Since I was playing aggressive, I tried to attack but then I realised that those were not the right shots,” she added.

The conscious gameplan to adjust her naturally aggressive game to counter Plipuech is indicative of Raina’s match sense. Unlike the first round, she didn’t need to call her coach on court, didn’t get bogged down by pressure or let her opponent get a toe hold in the match.

“I think I played a smarter game today than how I usually play, I am glad that I can adjust the game when needed,” she said.

Raina’s strategy was also aided by the fact that her coach Hemant Bendre was there the last time the two played a three-setter in Hong Kong that the Indian lost. Keeping in mind Plipuech’s style from that game, the duo worked on specifics before the match.

“My coach has seen her, he was there the last time I played her. Then I had won a set, but she started going behind the baseline and I played aggressive so that’s why played different. With her it didn’t make sense to keep hitting the ball, I would have wasted my energy instead,” Raina elaborated.

Bendre concurred that idea was to play around with placement. “Today was more about not going full speed, there was no point risking shots. If you miss, you are going to hurt your chances so it was better to play at her speed and when you get the opportunity, attack,” he told The Field.

Improved agility

Another impressive facet of Raina’s game was her agility and speed with which she ran down her opponent. While it was much shorter than the first – 67 minutes as opposed to Wednesday’s 96 minutes long match that saw a first set tie-breaker despite leading 5-1 – it was a lot quicker. Raina kept pace with her quick-footed opponent and didn’t let her dictate terms. She reached the ball early and tried to pick her angles, which gave her the edge.

“She is naturally a very endurance-based athlete, she has good stamina. In training she has hit so many balls and does a lot of endurance work which reflected in her game today,’ her trainer Gaurav Nijhon explained.

On her part, Raina said she felt perfectly fine physically, despite playing two straight days.

In the quarterfinal against France’s Amandine Hesse, Raina’s ability to shift her game will be tested again. The two haven’t met before, but from how the French girl has performed in Mumbai, she also seems to have an attacking game and the ability to sustain pressure and fight back.

In the first round she knocked out fourth seed Arina Rodionova of Australia winning 7-6(2), 6-3 victory after being 2-5 down in the first set and in the second she overcame Israeli qualifier Denis Khazaniuk 6-3, 4-6, 6-1.

With a WTA semi-final spot at stake, it’ll be interesting to see how Raina absorbs the pressure and counters Hesse. Friday will be a tougher test for the 24-year-old. But if Thursday was any indication, Raina certainly has the wherewithal to go a step further.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

When did we start parenting our parents?

As our parents grow older, our ‘adulting’ skills are tested like never before.

From answering every homework question to killing every monster under the bed, from soothing every wound with care to crushing anxiety by just the sound of their voice - parents understandably seemed like invincible, know-it-all superheroes all our childhood. It’s no wonder then that reality hits all of a sudden, the first time a parent falls and suffers a slip disc, or wears a thick pair of spectacles to read a restaurant menu - our parents are growing old, and older. It’s a slow process as our parents turn from superheroes to...human.

And just as slow to evolve are the dynamics of our relationship with them. Once upon a time, a peck on the cheek was a frequent ritual. As were handmade birthday cards every year from the artistically inclined, or declaring parents as ‘My Hero’ in school essays. Every parent-child duo could boast of an affectionate ritual - movie nights, cooking Sundays, reading favourite books together etc. The changed dynamic is indeed the most visible in the way we express our affection.

The affection is now expressed in more mature, more subtle ways - ways that mimics that of our own parents’ a lot. When did we start parenting our parents? Was it the first time we offered to foot the electricity bill, or drove them to the doctor, or dragged them along on a much-needed morning walk? Little did we know those innocent acts were but a start of a gradual role reversal.

In adulthood, children’s affection for their parents takes on a sense of responsibility. It includes everything from teaching them how to use smartphones effectively and contributing to family finances to tracking doctor’s appointments and ensuring medicine compliance. Worry and concern, though evidence of love, tend to largely replace old-fashioned patterns of affection between parents and children as the latter grow up.

It’s something that can be easily rectified, though. Start at the simplest - the old-fashioned peck on the cheek. When was the last time you gave your mom or dad a peck on the cheek like a spontaneous five-year-old - for no reason at all? Young parents can take their own children’s behaviour available as inspiration.

As young parents come to understand the responsibilities associated with caring for their parents, they also come to realise that they wouldn’t want their children to go through the same challenges. Creating a safe and secure environment for your family can help you strike a balance between the loving child in you and the caring, responsible adult that you are. A good life insurance plan can help families deal with unforeseen health crises by providing protection against financial loss. Having assurance of a measure of financial security for family can help ease financial tensions considerably, leaving you to focus on being a caring, affectionate child. Moreover,you can eliminate some of the worry for your children when they grow up – as the video below shows.

Play

To learn more about life insurance plans available for your family, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of SBI Life and not by the Scroll editorial team.