The on-court “maturity” of Ankita Raina and the “observational” skills of Karman Kaur Thandi is making their newly-formed doubles partnership click, according to India’s top two singles players.
Raina and Thandi clinched their first career WTA doubles title at the $125K event in Taipei before combining to win the Pune Open last week, making it two trophies in a row. Thandi also beat Raina in the singles semi-final at Pune, but fell in the title clash to finish as runner-up.
While the twos have not committed on how long they want to play together but if they are playing the same tournaments, there is no stopping this partnership. Given that they are rankings are close together – Raina is ranked 213 while Thandi is world No 219, there is a possibility of both opting to play in the same events.
“In Taipei itself, we felt that combination and communication was at different level than what we had with other players. That is what is required to do well. When we lose a point, at that time communication is key,” Raina told PTI.
“Sometimes a player has an off day and on that day, the other has to carry the partner,” added the 25-year-old.
Thandi explained it further: “It was like I missed an easy ball, a stupid ball and she said we won’t be angry at each other and stay positive. And as it happened we were down in most of the Super Tie breakers [in Taipei]and we pulled it off.”
So what is that they find unique in each other, which they could not find in other partnerships?
“Her maturity on the court, she handles the pressure situations well and keeps me positive. And the main thing is understanding each other’s game and using that to our strength,” said Thandi.
Raina said Thandi, 20, is receptive of her ideas. “I know some of the players (on Tour) already and If I suggest a certain style of play, she was ready to listen and accept that. Some players do not do that.”
The Asian Games bronze medallist also recalled how Thandi could judge that one of the coaches was helping their rival players from outside.
“She observed that the coach was clapping in different ways at different times and our rivals would either go for lines or move up a bit, accordingly. I don’t know if that actually was the case but she thought of it and we played points accordingly,” she said.
The comfort of being around the person who speaks the same language is definitely there and it helps in releasing the pressure and lighten up the mood if the two girls can shake their legs on peppy Punjabi numbers just before the match.
Yes, that is how Raina and Thandi warm up for their matches these days.
“Dancing in the locker room on Punjabi songs to get ready for the match is the new thing we are doing. We do funny things during warm ups. I play songs like ‘Morni Ban key’, ‘Selfie’ and ‘Punjabi Mutiyaar’ on my phone,” said Thandi. “We both like dancing, once music is on, it is natural,” said Raina adding, “I think it will continue.”
The baseline game was always a strong point for 20-year-old Thandi, who is now even getting better handling pressure situations.
“Every aspect has to improve and we keep working on strengths. Serve is a big weapon and my backhand has got better. The goal is to play Grand Slam (Qualifiers) next year and get into top-150.
“On deuce points or super tie break when I was serving, I knew I can serve big and get these two points,” said Thandi, about close matches in the Taipei event.
“It comes with experience, playing more matches. It was 9-8 for us and she served. We got so many games from being 0-40 down from 15-40 down,” says Raina , backing her partner.
With inputs from PTI