Ankita Raina biography
Ankita Raina has been Indian tennis’ silent workhorse. In a country where women’s tennis has often struggled to find its footing, the Ahmedabad-born athlete is carving a place for herself.
Having turned pro in 2009, Ankita Raina has progressively worked her way up the International Tennis Federation (ITF) circuit and has won as many as 11 singles titles and has made the final on 10 different occasions as well.
However, her standout performances came in 2020. Ankita Raina not only steered India to their maiden Fed Cup play-offs before the COVID-19 pandemic struck but later returned to cap off the year as the highest-ranked Indian in both singles and doubles.
Ankita started her season with a semi-final showing at the ITF event in Canberra, Australia before making it to the title match at the ITF $25,000 event in Nonthaburi, Thailand. But it was back in India that Ankita Raina won a title for the first time this season.
Competing at an ITF event in Jodhpur, she beat Berfu Cengiz of Turkey to take the top prize.
Ankita Raina continued her fine form into the Fed Cup Asia/Oceania Zone group stage where she, along with veteran Sania Mirza, saw the Indian team through to its first-ever play-offs after beating the likes of Indonesia, South Korea and Chinese Taipei, among others.
Though the pandemic stopped the Indian tennis player in her tracks, Ankita was back on the circuit once competition resumed and went on to wrap up her season with the top prize at the ITF $100,000-plus event in Dubai.
Teaming up with Ekaterine Gorgodze of Georgia, they beat Spain's Aliona Bolsova and Kaja Juvan of Slovenia in a tense final for the crown. That victory saw Ankita Raina take her trophy count to 18 doubles titles on the ITF circuit.
The win also pushed her to the 117th position in the WTA doubles rankings chart, making her the best Indian in both the singles and the doubles rankings. She has been the top-ranked Indian singles player since 2017, largely on the back of some consistent performances over the years.
In 2019, Ankita Raina lined up against some of the top names in international tennis, including the former US Open champion Samantha Stosur, whom she beat for her first top-100 scalp, and one of USA’s rising stars Coco Gauff.
Quality performances on the ITF circuit in 2018 saw Ankita Raina become only the fifth Indian to break into the top 200 on the WTA rankings while later she went on to clinch a bronze medal at the 2018 Asian Games, only the second Indian to do so after Sania Mirza.
For Ankita Raina, 2021 has been a landmark year. The Indian tennis player marked her Grand Slam debut at the Australian Open in February in women’s doubles.
Ankita Raina ended the month by winning her maiden WTA 250 title - the women’s doubles at the Phillip Island Trophy - and breaking into the top-100 in women’s doubles rankings.
She also won the first WTA singles main draw match of her career at the same event, beating Italy’s Elisabetta Cocciaretto in the first round.
Born to a middle-class Kashmiri family in Ahmedabad, Ankita Raina took up tennis after accompanying her elder brother Ankur to a nearby court as a two-year-old. After a few years of being by the courtside, Ankita too was drawn into the sport.
While her elder brother couldn’t progress beyond the state-level competitions, Ankita Raina soon caught attention with her ability to win, and win big right from the Under-8 level.
For Ankita Raina, her first break came when she competed at the Future Kids, a talent hunt conducted by All India Tennis Association.
While the organisers were reluctant to enter her into the competition as she was only eight and the competition was an under-10 event, Ankita Raina found herself in the mix after her brother managed to convince the authorities. She went on to win the title by beating the then Maharashtra No. 1 Surabhi Varma.
Ankita Raina then devoted the following years into shaping her career with multiple wins at the age-group level. The Ahmedabad athlete also moved her base to Pune to train under the well-known coach Hemant Bendre.
The next big step in Ankita Raina’s career came in 2007 when turned up for the Under-14 Asian Tennis Series in 2007.
The competition format stipulated that participants play a certain number of national and international events in Asia with the top eight at the end of the season making it to the grand finale at Melbourne Park, the venue of the Australian Open, the season’s opening Grand Slam.
Here, Ankita made the most of the opportunity to not only make it to Australia but also finish as Asia No. 2 following a loss in the final.
Having gained enough confidence for her international foray, Ankita took the plunge and turned pro in 2009.