Winless for 61 weeks: A state of concern for Indian women's tennis?
It has been more than a year since Indian tennis saw a female player win a tour-level main draw match. Decoding the downhill.
In July 2018, Karman Thandi made it to the main draw of the Nanchang Open as a qualifier. In the first round, Thandi, then ranked No.232 in the world was drawn against Jia Jing Lu. Lu was placed 50 spots over Thandi in the global rankings. However, after over 2 hours and 30 minutes of play, Thandi outclassed Lu in three sets. Later, in the second round, the Indian managed to win only four games against Saisai Zheng, who was the eventual runner-up in the tournament.
The win over Lu was the last match wherein an Indian lady won a tour-level main draw match. In that same tournament, India's current No.1 player Ankita Raina, lost in the first round against Yafan Wang, who went on to win the title.
Ever since the 2018 Nanchang Open, Raina had three opportunities in 2019 in order to finally register a tour-level main draw match win. The first one came on the grass courts of Nottingham. As a lucky loser, Raina was drawn against another lucky loser, Chloe Paquet. Raina managed to win the first set but ultimately lost in three. The second opportunity came on the clay courts of the inaugural Jurmala Open. She faced Patricia Tig in the first round and managed to win only three games in the entire match.
Raina returned to Nanchang, creating a third opportunity for herself to break the tour-level main-draw losing streak. She was drawn against fourth seed Evgeniya Rybakina. The Indian No.1 forced a decider by winning the second set but succumbed in the third 6-3. This week, Raina lost yet again to Chloe Paquet in the qualifying draw of the Tashkent Open.
A few weeks after her win over Lu at Nanchang, Thandi got into the main draw of Guangzhou. She drew former World No.2, Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round. Hopes soared high when Thandi took the first set 6-3. But Kuznetsova rallied her way back into the match and won the next two sets, dropping only five games. In 2019, Thandi is yet to win a main draw match.
Thandi was last active at the Miami Open earlier this year where she got a wildcard in the qualifying draw. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury forced her to retire mid-match. But the Indian No.3 has an optimistic view even in these circumstances.
Pranjala Yadlapalli, at the age of 20, is currently India's second best female tennis player. Having said so, Yadlapalli has stayed out of competition since her main draw appearance at the WTA125 event in Mumbai.
So why is it that at the highest levels of the game, India's ace queens are at a standstill? Coaching issues? Financial drawbacks? Lack of necessary support? On the whole, maybe yes. Ankita Raina is India's lone entrant in the World's Top 200. She has made this hustle all by herself without a travelling coach and a hitting partner. Is it about time she gets that deserved privilege in order to magnify her results?Veteran coach Ebrahim Zadeh has been working with Thandi at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy.
Rutuja Bhosale, India's No.4 has chosen to train abroad in order to improve her game to the next level. Rutuja is currently training at the ProTennis Academy in Barcelona. She believes there are a lot of changes that are still taking shape in her game.
Indian Women's Tennis has had its ups and downs. But when a winless phase on the professional circuit, as long as 61 weeks (and still running) kicks in, maybe it is not only the players who are to be blamed. Here are the current positions of Top 7 Indian tennis players in the WTA Rankings:
- Ankita Raina - #191
- Pranjala Yadlapalli - #338
- Karman Thandi - #410
- Rutuja Bhosale - #429
- Riya Bhatiya - #490
- Mahak Jain - #582
- Zeel Desai - #793