MUMBAI: Success doesn’t come overnight, but maybe confidence can. Ankita Raina had looked shaky when things got too close for comfort in the opening round against Veronika Kudermetova on Wednesday. But a day later she entered the court armed with a solid game plan.
On Thursday, she was up against Thailand’s Peangtarn Plipuech. The defeat at the hands of the Thai girl, two years ago from a winning position, was fresh in the Indian’s mind. And Ankita played smart tennis, mixing up pace and length, against the crafty Plipuech to romp to a 6-2, 6-2 victory in the second round of the $125,000 L&T Mumbai Open at the breezy Cricket Club of India courts.
The confidence in her game was evident as she closed out the first set with a forehand winner. Even though Plipuech was standing right there, well-positioned to defend, she rarely got her racquet on the ball.
“I really wanted to win this match,” the 24-year-old Indian said after entering her first quarterfinal at the WTA level. “I knew it was a good draw here and could move forward into the tournament. When I won the last point I had mixed feelings. Usually I am very emotional. I didn’t know if I was going to cry.”
She trailed off by adding, “I think I will be back at No 1 (Indian),” with a small smile. When the rankings had come out on Monday, the top-ranked Indian had been overtaken by the 19-year-old Karman Kaur Thandi. Even though Ankita said she was happy the younger generation was already close at her heels and the in-house competition was pushing the players to do better, she clearly looks keen to set the hierarchy straight.
In October 2015, her coach Hemant Bendrey had watched from the sidelines as she lost the plot against Plipuech after winning the first set (6-1, 3-6, 1-6) in a WTA International series qualifying in Hong Kong. Now acquainted with the tricks up the Thai player’s sleeve, the coach and ward worked hard in the morning to make the little adjustments in the game and come up with a smart plan.
“Her body language is difficult to read,” said Ankita, who mixed in a few drop shots to her punchy ground strokes to unsettle her opponent. “She is like that throughout the match, whether she is winning or losing. She gets in a lot of balls, you never know when she is going to come back. I was glad I was able to adjust my game and bring more variation when needed.” Bendrey, who has been with her for the past 14 years, though is hoping that the victory, more than the crucial prize money and ranking points it brings, helps boost her confidence.