Ankita Raina, India’s highest-ranked woman tennis player, suffered a heartbreaking loss in the final round of the Australian Open qualifiers being held in Dubai. She went down to Serbian teenager Olga Danilovic 2-6, 6-3, 1-6 in a topsy-turvy clash on Wednesday.
The 28-year-old started slow but bounced back in the second set and take the momentum in the decider. But Danilovic, ranked 183 in the world now but with a WTA title to her name, blazed through the third set to confirm her ticket for Melbourne.
There is still hope that she can make it to Melbourne as a lucky loser, depending on the rest of the final round matches. the organisers have decided to take players, who lost in the final round to Melbourne for entry in case there are withdrawals.
“They (organisers) are taking me to Melbourne and considering the COVID-19 situation, there could be withdrawals. I am seventh in the queue. I am still hopeful,” she told PTI.
Not being able to win points on her first serve hurt her. Raina said her opponent came out with her best game.
“It was good tennis from both of us, top level from the first game. She was serving very well and she was able to win free points with her serve,” she said.
“In the second set I started reading her serves well and I started making better counter returns which gave me an advantage at the start of all the points.
“In the beginning of third set she again started serving well and won couple of quick points where she got a 3-0 lead. She was able to increase her speed in the strokes and serve as well.”
Despite trailing 1-5 in the decider she said “didn’t give up till the last point.”
“I still had hope that I could come back because I gave everything I had out there. I am proud of the fighting spirit I showed out there today,” she added.
She was aiming to become just the third Indian to reach the women’s singles main draw of a Grand Slam. Only Nirupama Vaidyanathan and Sania Mirza have achieved that feat. Nirupama had reached the second round of the Australian Open in 1998 while Sania last competed in the singles category in 2012.
India’s challenge in the men’s singles qualifying had ended on Tuesday with Ramkumar Ramanathan and Prajnesh Gunneswaran losing in the second round. Ramkumar lost to 3-6, 2-6 to Chinese Taipei’s Tung-Lin Wu in 69 minutes while Prajnesh went down in straight-set loss to Frenchman Constant Lestienne 2-6, 3-6.
Her defeat means that Sumit Nagal will be the only Indian to compete in the singles event of the first Grand Slam of the season. Nagal has been awarded a wild card entry into the men’s singles.