“It’s fun to play in front of big crowds” – Ankita Raina, as she is set to play a French player at Roland Garros

India’s lone singles participant at Roland Garros this year, Ankita Raina is ready to give it her all in Paris. We caught up with her after her practice session at Tir aux Pigeons, an off-site venue around 5kms away from the main stadium.

Raina looked sharp in the practice session, dominating a practice set against the 18 year old and WTA $167 Katrina Scott from the USA, winning 6-2. In this interview, Raina speaks about her feelings before the tournament, being back in Paris for the fifth time, exploring the city as a tourist, and much more –

Q) Welcome to Paris. It’s your fifth time at Roland Garros. How does it feel?

AR – It’s obviously great to be at the Slams. I missed it last year, I wasn’t here. Really looking forward to it. I feel well prepared coming into the tournament. Have had a good couple of practice sessions, a good week on clay last week. I feel in good shape.

Q) Like you said, you played one week on clay coming into the tournament before coming here. You had a good win, and then ran Sara Errani close. How does your game feel on clay especially?

AR – I feel good and more and more used to the clay now. I have not played a lot on clay over the years, only maybe Roland Garros and a couple of tournaments before it. I feel much more used to the surface in terms of movement and how to construct the point.

The tournament I played in Florence last week was kind of a last moment thing. It went well. I got two matches. It was a good week coming into Roland Garros.

Q) Anvit (Bendre) has been travelling with you for the last 1.5 years. What has his role been and how does he help you?

AR – It’s definitely helpful and good to have someone travelling with you. Especially with me, I have travelled a lot alone since the juniors until 2018 or so. Since then, I had him or Hemant Sir or my mom or some physio came in for the odd Grand Slam. With Anvit, it’s been a year and a half now. It’s good to have him and he’s been a player, so he has an idea on what a player goes through during tournaments.

Last year was tricky and tough with my health. So it’s good to have the support. There are a lot of things you need during a tournament apart from just hitting.

Q) You play a lower ranked French wildcard. It’s not going to be easy with the crowd against you. But you’ve been in such situations before. What are your thoughts going into the match?

AR – I was in the situation last week against Sara Errani (laughs). But it’s a lot of fun to play when you have a big crowd – it’s a different energy and a different vibe. Everyday is a new day. Every tournament is a fresh start from the beginning, no matter what the result has been the previous day or the previous week. I feel confident and good. I have had good practice and some matches coming in.

Q) You have been to Paris several times now. Have you had a chance to explore the city? If so, what do you like here and what are some of your favorite spots?

AR – I’ve been around the city over the years. I have been to the museums, done the boat ride. I think I have done all the touristy stuff here (laughs). What I really like is the typical French cafes as I’m a coffee person. So I enjoy that, especially when you have sunny weather here in Paris. And I come here during Roland Garros, so I get lucky with the weather as it’s the peak summer sort of. That’s when a lot of tourists are here as well. Rest of the year can be rainy and gloomy.

Vatsal is a tennis player and fanatic. Currently learning French

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