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Wanted to come home badly to be with mother: Ankita Raina

Even as Ankita Raina recounts the incident, the mental challenges of a travelling athlete can't be understated as she herself lifts the veil.

Published: 23rd April 2021 11:48 PM  |   Last Updated: 23rd April 2021 11:48 PM   |  A+A-

Indian tennis star Ankita Raina

Indian tennis star Ankita Raina (Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: During the India-Lativia playoff tie in Jurmala last week, one of the players from the Indian squad broke down. She was looking forward to going home after a taxing few months on tour but a phone call from home shattered her. One of her family members became unwell that her trip back home had to be preponed.

Even as Ankita Raina recounts the incident to The New Indian Express, the mental challenges of a travelling athlete can't be understated. She herself lifts the veil on what it's been like the last four months. She has been to Australia, Mexico, the UAE and Latvia.

It's given her highs like qualifying for her maiden Slams and being part of the squad that played in its first ever Billie Jean King Cup (formerly Fed Cup) play-off tie.

But the constant COVID-19 related chatter on tour and the constant stream of WhatsApp messages from India has meant 'it definitely takes up space in your mind'. "Everyone is talking about it in tournaments. WhatsApp messages is about so many cases this day... it definitely takes up space in your mind. You might accept it, might not accept it... you may not even realise it but it will certainly occupy some space," she said.

It's easy to understand Ankita's sentiments. Just last week, she had to change her schedule 'every other day' because of COVID-19. Even when you momentarily forget about it, a tournament cancels because of the virus.

"Last week, I had to change my schedule every other day. You send your entry then the tournament gets cancelled or the country goes into lockdown. I feel it's ridiculous to plan anything right now. You have to be in the present. Only then you will be sane," she said.

She also reveals how she insisted on coming back home post Latvia even when her coach and family advised against such a decision 'for my own safety'. "I really wanted to come home so badly. My mother and coach were like don't come and I was like 'I'm also a human being, I understand you guys want me to be safe but where do you want me to go'?" she commented.

She's right now in Pune so she can train. With all these thoughts going around, it can't be easy to travel and compete every week. She does meditation to focus better but, even then, it's not been busy. "Meditation is part of my routine. Now, what I have learnt is to be able to do it even when you are in that situation. I don't know how many of us can do that. You can meditate, that's fine. But when you are stressing out, you are panicking. How do you try to calm yourself down?" she asked.

With all this in the back of her mind, she actually did a damn fine job of running both the Latvian players close during both the singles ties. The matches showed her that she can definitely take on these girls. "It was a matter of few points," she said.

"Important points, they were more solid. Before going I had said it was going to be a win-win situation for us. We would either win or learn. We got a lot of experience from the tie," she added. For the time being though, it's time to train at Pune before going to France a few weeks before Roland Garros.



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