Australian Open: Ankita Raina wants to make the most of first slam appearance

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Dubai: Ankita Raina, India’s No.1 women’s tennis player, wants to make the most of her experience of realising her Grand Slam dream as one of the lucky losers at the Qualifiers for next month’s 2021 Australian Open.

A total of 32 players begun their Grand Slam journey while winning their way through qualifying and preparing to compete at year’s Grand Slam, scheduled to take place at Melbourne Park from February 8-21. Raina was one of the six lucky losers who made the cut on the plane to Australia while joining the 16 women qualifiers.

Those qualifying through the four-day competition at the Dubai Tennis Stadium include two-time Australian Open and Roland Garros doubles champion Timea Babos of Hungary, Australian Open 2012 quarter-finalist and former world No.1 doubles player and Roland Garros 2012 finalist Sara Errani of Italy, Wimbledon 2010 semi-finalist and US Open 2020 quarter-finalist Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria and inspiring British star Francesca Jones.

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The men’s qualifiers that took place in Doha had 17-year-old Spaniard and ATP Newcomer of the Year Carlos Alcaraz making the grade along with former world No.12 Viktor Troicki of Serbia, USA’s Michael Mmoh, Elias Ymer (Sweden) and Australia’s Bernard Tomic.

“The main thing at the moment is that I’m playing well and I am confident with my game,” Ankita told Gulf News. “The idea now is to take all these things forward with the hope that I find the consistency of performing at this high level,” she added.

Two Indian women and men each had entered the qualifying rounds in Dubai and Doha and Raina was the only one in the fray on the final day on Wednesday. The 28-year-old Pune based girl went down 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 to Serbia’s Olga Danilovic.

Timea Babos of Hungary is one of the most well-known names to have made the cut from Dubai Qualifiers. Image Credit: AFP

“That was good tennis from both of us. It was top level from the first game. Olga came out there with her best game I’d say. She was serving very well and she was able to win free points with her serve. In the second 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,” Ankita reflected.

“In the beginning of the third set, she again started serving well and won couple of quick points where she got the lead of 3-0. She was able to increase her speed in the strokes and serve as well. I didn’t give up till the last point and so was able to save some match points,” she related.

“I still had hope that I could come back from 1-5 down because I gave everything I had out there. I am proud of the fighting spirit I showed out there today, and I can learn a lot from all this,” Raina added.

Starting earlier today [Thursday], 15 flights, none at more than 25 per cent capacity, will transport players into Australia during a 36-hour period. All players must return a negative test prior to boarding their flight to Australia.

Everyone landing will be tested on arrival and isolated until results are received, after each all of them will be required to undertake 14 days of mandatory quarantine with the rest of the international players.

Once a negative result has been returned, players can train within a highly controlled and strictly supervised environment for five hours per day. Players and their teams will be tested every day during quarantine.

The Australian Open draw will be conducted on February 4 and the actual competition will get under way from February 8.

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