Ankita fulfills her dream

Ankita fulfills her dream

Indian tennis player Ankita Raina celebrates after winning bronze in the women's singles event. AFP

It is turning out to be quite a year for Ankita Raina. The 25-year-old, after an impressive Fed Cup performance in February, broke into the top-200 for the first time, and capped it with a women's singles bronze medal at the Asian Games.

In between, her improved ranking allowed her to play in the French Open and Wimbledon qualifying rounds and she would have made it to the US Open qualifiers too, but preferred to go to Indonesia for the quadrennial event. The confidence she gained has spurred her to now represent the country at the Olympics.

“It has been a dream to win a medal for India. My mom had a flashback moment where she remembered my childhood days of waking up 5 in the morning and going for training. I was really upset to lose the semifinals. But as I started getting people's messages I allowed the feeling of winning the bronze to settle in. My coach (Hemant Bendre) said he was proud of me and that really mattered a lot to me. I had my chances in the semifinal but I did all I could,” Ankita told DH.

“This week has given me tremendous self-belief. I feel I can follow my dream of representing India at Olympics.”

Unlike any other, Ankita shouldered the responsibility of playing in all three events in hot conditions, but she does not feel it impacted her game. “It was the need of the hour that I play in all three events,” she said.

And while Ankita nurses no regrets, she felt the Asian Games organisers could have found a better window to hold the Games in order to avoid overlapping it with US Open. “So many players could have played but were forced to make a choice. Both Karman and I would have played at the US Open. From how I look at it, if I can continue to play well, I will play at US Open next year,” said Ankita, who would now head home for a few days before heading out for competitions in Asia.

Prajnesh happy with bronze

Like Ankita, Prajnesh Gunneswaran ensured India returned with a medal in men's singles. The 28-year-old stepped up following the early exit of fancied Ramkumar Ramanathan and overcame cramps in a gruelling quarterfinal match against Soonwoo Kwon of South Korea, lasting three hours.

He, however, lost to eventual gold medallist Denis Istomin but not before earning the nickname “marathon man” from his team-mates. “It is very unreal. I never thought I would return with a medal for the country, so I am really happy. I was drained out after the quarterfinals and Denis obviously played fantastic,” Prajnesh said.

“Injuries have affected my seasons but I am happy the way my career is moving now. The goal is to get my rankings as high and keep improving.”