India’s top-ranked and World no 178, Ankita Raina shows time and again that her ability to perform under pressure has been her biggest weapon. The unseeded Raina, pulled off an upset in the opening round of the 125K Kunming Open in Anning, China stunning former top 5 and 2011 U.S.Open champ, Samantha Stosur 7-5 2-6 7-5 in a tough 2 hours and 49 minutes battle.
Having met the Australian last year in Dubai in the first round of qualifying, Raina who lost in straight sets 4-6 4-6 was aware of her opponent’s strengths and was bent on turning the tables. It was a fighting performance then as well but this time it was her time to make the most.
“I had played with her before last year in Dubai, so I knew what was going to come and I was mentally prepared,” Raina told The Bridge. An erratic Stosur was struggling to hold serve while the Indian showed resilience to make most of the opportunity. With endless unforced errors, the Australian kept jostling to find rhythm that kept swinging back and forth in the duration of the match. Raina stood the test by keeping calm and on the third match point clinched the elusive win over Stosur.
“Considering her strength I had a plan for her which worked today,” Raina added reflecting on the match and the win. The Kashmiri girl who has shown supreme fighting skills on the circuit certainly will cherish the way she pulled the upset today. Finishing as runners-up in Istanbul a few days back, Raina has been riding the winning wave.
“Definitely I was anxious, it was an intense match with all emotions and nerves,” Ankita said. After bagging the first set, Raina slipped and lost rhythm in the second when Stosur had managed to curb the errors and set things going. But the decider was when Ankita knew she had work on hands again. After missing both the match points, the India No. 1 finally converted the third chance to beat Stosur and book her berth in the last 16 in Anning.
“On the third match point that I won, I just told myself believe, it is now or never and grab the opportunity,” said Raina who won 70% of first serves and converted 7 out of the 16 break points. She thundered three aces but also committed six double faults while the Australian rained down seven aces and served 18 double faults that cost her the match.
The win will be the biggest of Raina’s career considering the enormous feats at her opponent’s resume.
The Australian, World No. 77 Stosur has some big wins under her belt. The former World No 4 beat Serena Williams in the final to clinch the 2011 U.S.Open title in 2011. Stosur, 35, runner up at the 2010 French Open who beat 4 time champion Justine Henin and Serena Williams enroute to the final also has won three Grand Slam doubles and two Mixed doubles titles.
An ecstatic Raina said, “I have been working hard and my team believed in me. My coach had told me that I am sure you will have a big performance in this circuit.” Ankita who broke into the top 200 last year has been optimistic of her scaling the rankings steadily. “I think this win is a big confidence booster for my goal to achieve top 100,” said the 26-year old.
Raina will face World No 209 Zhang Kai-Lin in the R16 whom she had completely blanked 6-0 6-0 in the quarter final of the ITF Pune last season. This is a fifth appearance for Ankita at the Kunming Open where she has reached the R16 thrice before. It remains to be seen if Raina can carry this momentum and make it to the last eight in Anning.