“I started really well but she stepped up at the crucial moments” – Rutuja Bhosale, after an inspiring performance against the WTA Top 35 Shuai Zhang at the Fed Cup

Putting up a gutsy show, Ankita Raina gave a scare to world number 29 Qiang Wang after Rutuja Bhosale suffered defeat in the first singles as India lost the Fed Cup tie against China after conceding an unassailable 0-2 lead, here on Tuesday.

Rutuja fought her heart out before losing 4-6 2-6 to world number 35 Shuai Zhang in the first singles.

In a chat with ITD volunteer Mr. Krishnakumar post match, Rutuja summarised her thoughts –

Rutuja during the match

1) You were up a break in the first set. What turned things around?
I think I started really well and went for my shots. She didn’t know what to expect, so I was stepping up and doing what I usually do, which is attack. But then I got broken back, she made an adjustment and increased her pace. That’s what Vishal(Uppal) Sir was also saying, that I need to keep hitting my strokes.

In the first few games, I was hitting in the middle and she missed, but then she got used to it. A little bit of experience and a bit of not stepping up at the right moments. I was there in the rallies, I was there everywhere, but I could have probably stepped up more in the crucial moments.

2) What are a few areas in which you think you can improve considering today’s match?
I need to definitely get stronger, and the serve needs to get better. This is my second tournament of the year and I feel much better. I wasn’t really serving well last year, but now I’m feeling much more confident with my game and body.

3) Zhang is a solid top 30 player, and even ran Sofia Kenin at the AO 2020 this year. Did that play on your mind at any stage?
Usually it does, but today it did not at all. Like I said, I started off really well. Sania told me a few things before the match and that really helped. So it was not playing on my mind at all, but it was just the case of her stepping up on the right moments and that proved to be the difference.

4) You’ve been slightly bogged down by injuries lately. How do you feel now?
It’s been three years since I came back from college in the US, and I haven’t managed to play a full calendar without getting injured so far. It’s just my second tournament of the year, and I’m healthy right now. So I hope to finish the whole calendar this year.

5) Your results in doubles have been better of late. Any extra focus being put in there?
Not really. It’s just that I really love being at the net, being unpredictable. Singles is pressure, and more exhausting as well. Having said that, singles is my focus but doubles has been great. I hope both of them get going at the same level soon.

6) Thoughts on the matches coming up in the next four days
I think it’s a really good opportunity for me to play against players like Zhang, and the others from Chinese Taipei who are pretty high ranked as well. Just to be able to compete against them will show me where I lag, what I’m capable of. The learnings from this week will help me in the rest of the season for sure.

Also, it’s easy to play against these top 50 players, who’ve played against the likes of Serena, etc. They know what to do. Once we compete a few times with these guys and gain the experience, we’ll also move up soon.

Ankita ran Top 30 Qiang Wang very close
The makeshift pair of Riya Bhatia and Sowjanya Bavisetti played the inconsequential doubles rubber

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