"Olympic dream is a reality now!" says Indian tennis ace Ankita Raina
In an exclusive conversation with The Bridge, Ankita Raina talks about her Olympic debut in Tokyo and excitement to partner up with Sania Mirza.
Perched at the top of women's singles National rankings is Ahmedabad's Ankita Raina. Ranked amongst the Top 200 tennis players in the world globally, Raina has recently been selected to represent India at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She will be partnering former doubles World No.1 Sania Mirza at the upcoming Summer Olympics.
The Bridge got in touch with Raina who shared her views regarding her Olympic selection, partnering the 6-time Grand Slam Champion Sania Mirza and the Target Olympics Podium Scheme (TOPS).
Q: What was your first reaction after learning about your Olympics selection?
Ankita Raina: I don't think I can express the feeling in words, all athletes play and train everyday in the pursuit of the Olympic dream and for me now it is not a dream anymore, it is a reality! I feel grateful to everyone & everything that has happened with me to get here and I'm really looking forward to participating in the Olympics.
Q: You are partnering someone who has spearheaded Indian women's tennis since long. As a doubles team, how do you analyze the Mirza-Raina duo?
Ankita Raina: Sania is one of the best women's doubles players so partnering her is an honour; she from deuce court is the best in the world and I have played my best doubles from AD side, I'm sure we both will complement each other with our strengths!
Q: What tournaments do you plan to play in the weeks before the Olympics?
Ankita Raina: Because of the pandemic and restrictions, it would be difficult to plan & play events together but we would be definitely practicing together after Wimbledon.
Q: How much do you fancy your chances of making it to the singles draw of the Olympics? Will the 2018 Asian games bronze help?
Ankita Raina: I am not sure about the criteria for the qualification as this is the first Olympics where a gold medalist has been given a wild card in the Olympics. But why not, it'll be a great feat altogether!
Q: Do you think a limited attendance of the spectators at the Olympics will affect your game? Especially considering that there won't be any International spectators?
Ankita Raina: I don't think it will affect our performance or effort. Usually spectators are an important part of these events but in the current situation this is how it's been even in other tournaments.
Q: The Indian tennis contingent at the Tokyo Olympics. How do you outline the scenario with only a few weeks remaining for the games?
Ankita Raina: It will be clear after the French Open.
Q: As an athlete how have you benefited from being a part of the Target Olympics Podium Scheme?
Ankita Raina: I have been supported by TOPS for a while before the Asian games 2018 and also for an international training stint in Spain through some other scheme. My name has been included again in the TOPS scheme, apart from the monetary help they have been supportive of all the other aspects and have gone out of the way to make sure athletes are comfortable and get all the help needed and that for me is very important, like sorting out major issues such as getting visa for the coach to travel in this pandemic. TOPS is helping all athletes with all their resources and it really makes me proud of being part of TOPS. I would also like to thank SAG (Sports Authority of Gujarat) who have been a solid support from 2013, Adani foundation who have supported me even in Pandemic and ONGC who are my employers.
Q: Growing up, watching the Olympics, do you have a favorite scene/moment from the Olympics (across all sports)?
Ankita Raina: For me it was the photo of Leander Paes standing on the podium in 1996, Saina Nehwal getting her Bronze medal in 2012 and watching Sindhu winning her Silver medal in 2016. And some videos of ex Olympians give me goosebumps who have tried again year after year to get that medal.