With the ranking points from her triumph in the Chennai ITF women’s tennis championship, Ankita Raina will become India’s top singles player. She certainly looked the part last week.
The 20-year-old capped an excellent performance, which had her dig deep in some matches and dominate others, with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Natasha Palha in Saturday’s final here at Madras Gymkhana Club.
Ankita said the tournament, which included tough wins over Rushmi Chakravarthi, Eetee Maheta, and Barbara Bonic, felt like a breakthrough — having lost two close finals in the $10,000 Hyderabad ITF events last month, both to Portugal’s Barbara Luz, it was important that she got over the mental hump.
The final unfolded along expected lines. Both girls train under Hemant Bendrey at Pune’s PYC Gymkhana; they hold no surprises from each other.
Ankita was the more powerful ball-striker, Natasha, the slightly better mover. Natasha delivered the stronger first serve, Ankita got hers in more frequently.
Ankita began both sets slowly. But once she found the range of her ground-strokes, especially the forehand, which she flattened at times to hit spectacular winners, Natasha struggled to keep up. Ankita went on a five-game streak in the first set and a six-game streak in the second.
Ankita will move up from her current ranking of 486 with the 12 points from this event. She aims to break into the world’s top 200 by the year-end.
Nineteen-year-old Natasha, ranked No. 751, gained eight points.
The result: Final: Ankita Raina bt Natasha Palha 6-3, 6-1.
Keywords: ITF women’s tennis championship