After Asian Games 2018 high, Ankita Raina sets Olympics 2020 target
Up against world No. 34 Zhang Shuai in the semi-finals, Ankita Raina put up a strong fight despite being ranked 155 places below.
Though the Indian lost a gruelling two-hour battle 4-6, 6-7 (6), she left a mark with her quality display.
After being stretched, Shuai admitted Ankita belongs to the top-50 category. A day before, Ankita had her hands full as she appeared in three matches — singles, doubles and mixed doubles — in sapping conditions of Palembang.
She was assured bronze after a dominating victory over Eudice Chong 6-4, 6-1 of Hong Kong in the quarter-finals. In the process, she became only the second woman after Sania Mirza to win a medal in singles event.
The 25-year-old could have played the US Open qualifiers but instead chose to participate in the Asian Games. “Now that I have won a medal I don’t regret my decision. It would have been nice had the Asian Games organisers ensured there was no clash of dates. Winning a medal for the country, it doesn’t come easy. I can still play at the US Open next year but this is once in a lifetime opportunity,” Ankita said.
“This week has given me the confidence to represent India at the Olympics. I want to get my ranking higher and get into top 100,” she said. Sania was the first one to congratulate her and Ankita is happy to match her record. “Sania has been an inspiration for me. I have always looked up to her and the way she has instilled confidence among young girls is amazing. I always want to do that and that is why I work so hard. “
“I was upset after losing the semi-finals. I had my chances but I wasn’t able to cash in. But then everyone around me cheered me up. Standing on the podium made me feel proud. My coach said he was proud of me and that really matters a lot to me,” said Ankita who is coached by Hemant Bendre in Pune.
Ankita has been pushing her limits this year and reaching new peaks. In February, she gave an exhibition of her talent here at the DLTA court, beating former world No 27 and French Open quarter-finalist Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan in a Fed Cup tie. The confidence she gained from that win set her on path to break new barriers.
She hit top form on the ITF circuit and in April became only the fifth Indian female player to move into the top-200 before playing in the qualifiers of French Open and Wimbledon.
“Playing in the Grand Slam is a different experience all together. I have learnt from the experiences. I need to keep working hard. I know I have the game and when I play the top players I am able to stand up to them. It is about how consistent I am,” said Ankita.