“It’s a Grand Slam, everyone fights like it’s their last match” – Ankita Raina, after overcoming a tough fight at the US Open Qualifying

India No.1 Ankita Raina beat 214th ranked Romanian Miriam Bulgaru 6-3 7-5 to move into the 2nd round of qualifying in New York. Raina was serving for the match at 5-3 in the 2nd set when her opponent suddenly came up with a flurry of winners. Raina though kept her calm and finished the match off in straight sets.

Raina will take on 14th seed and 114th ranked Aliona Bolsova from Spain next. Raina is 0-1 in the head-to-head against Bolsova, losing in straight sets at the 2021 Australian Open previously.

Raina caught up with ITD post her round 1 win for a brief interview. Excerpts below:

ITD: Well done. Especially towards the end there she was coming up with a lot of big winners. How did you keep it together? Were you just telling yourself that she can’t do that every time? What was your mindset?

Ankita Raina: No, I mean, of course, it’s a Grand Slam you know, every point everyone fights it out like it’s the last match because it’s the most important and biggest event.

So of course,you have to expect that. But I knew I was experienced, so I just stayed positive and kept fighting.

ITD: It was two pretty long sets – a lot of close games, long games. And in the first set, you traded breaks at the beginning and then you managed to get another one. How important was that to just sort of stay ahead?

Ankita Raina: I mean, it’s the first match, so you know, both the players, take time to understand how the court is playing, the ball is playing, and also with the wind and the conditions. I felt she had a more spinny game. There were times where she just ripped the ball, but at other times I felt she was playing more high, more spinny and into the court.

For me, obviously I knew I had to step in and stay aggressive.

I didn’t know her. Honestly, I’ve not seen her – this is the first time I’m seeing her. You know, sometimes there are players who are traveling mostly in Europe and the American side. So yeah, I’m happy I did a good job.

ITD: It seemed like there were quite a lot of Indians out there in the crowd. How did that feel to have that support?

Ankita Raina: That was great. You know, this is what we want, what you want. For me, I’ve always dreamt about doing it on such a big stage and then having the Indian crowd supporting, cheering for you. It really helps. No doubt about that.

ITD: And how much confidence do you get from this summer and in Prague and in Poland, you played in the main draw of two WTA 250 events. Does that give you the confidence you can get through here?

Ankita Raina: Yeah, definitely. I mean, that’s the level you want to play.

That’s the players you want to play amongst and win and keep climbing in the rankings. Especially the match against Strycova. And there were I think, maybe one or two other matches as well where I had like top hundred wins. So that definitely builds your confidence in coming into a Slam.

ITD: How much of it is your goal to qualify for a Singles main draw of a Grand Slam? Or is it really just taking it one match at a time?

Ankita Raina: That is the goal. And you know, last year was tough. I didn’t play any slam after the Australian because like I’ve mentioned earlier, health wise, keeping fit with COVID etcetera. Then coming back slowly and then coming back to the Grand Slams, qualifying of the Grand Slams.

So that is one of the goals, but yeah, you need to take it match by match.

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