On Wednesday night, Ankita Raina pulled off a brilliant comeback against compatriot and sparring partner Rutuja Bhosale to reach the second round of the L&T Mumbai Open. She played with determination, grit and also rode on a bit of luck. Within 16 hours, she was back battling it out on court. Perhaps, this time she ran out of luck, losing to Montenegro's Danka Kovinic to end the Indian singles challenge at the Mumbai Open.
Bhosale looked stronger of the two and clinched the first set 6-4. However, Bhosale's shoulder injury started troubling her and despite calling for the physiotherapist before the start of the second set, she couldn't replicate her form from the first set. Raina went on the offensive and won the second set 6-2 to force the match into a third and final set.
In what was a topsy-turvy battle, Bhosale started brightly in the third set and looked poised to win the match at 4-1. However, Raina fought back to force the match into a tiebreaker which she went on to win. A day later, a fatigued Raina was back on the centre court to take on Kovinic.
The slugfest against Bhosale had clearly taken a toll on Raina as she was broken four times in the first set by the physically dominant Montenegrin. The 25-year-old lost the set 6-2 and it would have taken a miracle for her to mount another comeback.
"I think I did not recover completely from the match (against Bhosale). It's not a problem for me to play back-to-back three-set matches. However, I am not back to full fitness after my illness and I need to work on that," Raina said after the match.
After the Asian Games, Raina contracted dengue which forced her out of the season for a couple of weeks. The illness drained her physically and she lost the momentum gained after the Jakarta-Palembang Games. The Mumbai Open was only her third tournament after the Asiad and she clearly wasn’t back to her best.
Like in the first set, Raina trailed 1-4 before a combination of good tennis from the Indian and some close umpiring calls helped the Indian claw back into the match. At 4-4 and down two game points, a line call went in Raina's favour. Her backhand was called in despite looking like it had landed just out. Kovinic went on to lose the point and she argued with the umpire. Raina went on to break Kovinic and get the opportunity to serve for the second set. A determined Kovinic, however, fought back to get a break to love. Kovinic held on to her serve before breaking Raina to win the match 6-2, 7-5.
Despite her second-round exit, Raina felt that her participation at the Mumbai Open was a positive step taken on the road to full fitness. With the Australian Open organisers expanding the women's singles qualifying to 128 players from 96, Raina believes that she can make the cut for the first Grand Slam of 2019.
"I feel like I have recovered from my illness. I am 20-30 points away from making it to the qualifying rounds of the Australian Open and that is the target for me now. I am planning to take part in a couple of matches for that," Raina said.
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Updated Date: Nov 02, 2018 13:28:45 IST