India’s challenge at the L&T Mumbai Open came to an end in the singles as India No 1 Ankita Raina went down to Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic 2-6, 5-7 in the second round on Thursday.
The 25-year-old could hold serve only twice in the 107-minute long match as she looked visibly low on energy after her first-round match had stretched close to midnight on Wednesday.
Raina, who was playing only her third tournament after a dengue fever waylaid her in September, persevered despite double break down in both sets and fought back but Kovinic, a with a career-high ranking of 46, proved to be too strong for the Indian.
“After last night’s match, my recovery was lacking. I felt low on energy because my endurance has been down. I fell ill after the Asian Games. I felt like I could have done better here but the recovery took its toll,” the world no 197, who had reached the quarter-finals last year, said after the match.
“But definitely I’ve to work more on my fitness. I can’t always blame that thing. In the beginning I did feel a bit slow but in the second set I got my rhythm,” she added.
Both women faced an almost equal number of break points but the conversion rate – 62% for Kovinic and 38% for Raina – tells the tale of the match.
Breaks and recovery
With momentum on her side having stunned fourth seed and 17-year-old rising star Olga Danilovic on Wednesday, Kovinic started with a love hold and broke the Indian’s serve to go 2-0 up early in the first set. Raina then began her recovery in third game that went to deuce nine times before converting her sixth break point to put the set back on serve.
At 2-1, it looked like Raina could claw her way back as she had done against Rutuja Bhosale when she was double break down in the decider. But Montenegrin won two games in succession to go 4-1 ahead. Raina called for her coach Hemant Bendrey then but was broken once again for 5-1.
There was a brief fightback as she broke her opponent who was serving for the set, but her errors on ground-strokes got the better of her as she surrendered serve and the set in 45 minutes.
Eight games in 45 minutes was a good indication of how tightly contested the match was for most part.
The second set started like the first as Kovinic went 2-0 up and despite a break, reached a comfortable position at 4-1.
However, Raina rallied herself and put in what was her best display of the evening. The Indian won four games in a row with all-out attack, which seemed to briefly unsettle her opponent’s rhythm. Like in the match against Bhosale, she fought back to gain lead. But against a fresher, fitter Kovinic, Raina fell short on both power and speed.
After drawing level at 4-4, Raina got a crucial break when Kovinic’s backhand misfired a couple of times.
Serving for the set after getting a 5-4 lead, however, she fluffed multiple chances as a failed smash and backhand error gave Kovinic a foot in at 5-5.
Thereafter the Montenegrin didn’t allow Raina to rally again, saving three break points and holding serve, aided by a lucky net cord point. Serving to stay in the match, Raina’s increasing error-count proved to be one too many as she failed to return on match point.
In other second round matches, top seed Zheng Saisai of China booked her spot in the quarter-finals with a straightforward 6-4, 6-2 win over Bibiane Schoofs while fifth seed Luksika Khumkhum of Thailand beat Barbora Stefkova 6-3, 6-4.
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