You have to go with the decisions that you take on the court and learn from them: Ankita Raina

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Indian No. 1 Ankita Raina had a brief conversation post her Q1 match at the Wimbledon Qualifying on the key moments in the match, on the turnaround in singles fortunes over the past year and on the support from the Punit Balan Group at the crucial phase of her journey. 

Ankita had lost to Jessica Bouzas Maneiro by a scoreline of 6-3 6-7 1-6. 

Thoughts on the match

I started off the match okay. It was windy conditions, so it was a bit tricky and it kept changing during the match. Initially it wasn’t that windy, but gradually throughout the match, there were times when it was a lot windy, so it was tricky conditions. 

I had not played against Jessica Bouzas Maneiro before, so I did not know the opponent well. However, I did well to take the first set in terms of not knowing what to expect from her. 

I had a bit of niggle in my back but I managed well for the first set with it. Then later on with the use of the pain-killers, it settled down. In the second set, I didn’t start off well. There were few unforced errors in the first two games but I managed to get back from 2-4 to 4-4. In the tie break I was leading so I had my chances. There were 2-3 points which were tricky with the wind, it was tough. 

It was difficult to decide with the wind on whether to attack or just to stay by playing safe. Obviously, she did well to come back from there and she led from the front in the 3rd set. 

Anything that could have been done differently?

Coming out of the court after the match, you would obviously feel that you could have done differently. However it is about taking those decisions at that moment. That is Tennis. You have to come up with great decisions. I feel that you have to go with the decisions that you take there on the court, learn with them and there are times where it goes in your favour and where it does not go in your favour. 

You had a difficult 2021/22 with COVID, especially in singles. However you have made a great comeback this year. Are there any improvements in your game that you worked on?

It was very difficult with twice having COVID, the quarantine, the bubble – it was tough mentally to perform in that atmosphere. I had never dropped in rankings like that (from top-160 to top-320) – then defending points while not feeling physically well. 

From around September onwards, I started feeling better and I am thankful to my team for that – Coach Hemant Bendrey sir, Anvit Bendre and my sponsors. You need support when you are going through your toughest phase. I am proud that I have been able to get back into the top-200 and back playing the Grand Slams. Hopefully it will get better from here. 

In terms of tweaks in my game: 

  1. It was about physically getting back to my peak fitness. 
  2. Worked a lot on my strength
  3. My agility has significantly improved 
  4. Adding a bit more speed to my serve over time

Overall understanding your body and doing the right recovery is important because we are playing week in and week out most of the time. 

You had a great clay season including a top-70 win. 

Clay was not my most preferred surface. It’s not like I hated it but I felt that I needed more time to get used to it. Movement has been one key thing as we have seen that on clay, it’s about getting into the right position and creating time for yourself. 

That tournament was a last minute call as the plan was to play only doubles. But as I was close to the entry list – I thought why not try. I did not have an easy qualifying round but the early wins boosted my confidence going into the match. 

On the support from the Punit Balan Group. 

Getting the support at the right time is crucial for every athlete. Back in August last year, as I mentioned earlier, it was a tough phase for me and getting Punil Balan group as sponsor was crucial. With the sponsorship from Punil Balan Group, I am able to have Coach Anvit Bendre travel with me. 

Interview Credit: Vishnu Reddy, ITD (https://indiantennisdaily.com/)

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