Australian Open:  Ankita Raina gives details of life inside the bio bubble

Raina is among the 12 'Lucky Losers' who are on the wait list for the season's first Grand Slam in Melbourne

By Samrat Chakraborty ·

The organisers of the Australian Open have put in place strict Covid-19 quarantine protocols after co-passengers of the participants from three flights tested positive.

Seventy-two players have been placed in complete isolation for 14 days while the rest have been allowed to step out to train for five hours a day.

India's Ankita Raina is fortunate to be in the second category as she is currently waiting to become the third from the country to feature in a Grand Slam women's singles main draw. She is one of the 12 'lucky losers' (male and female), who is hoping to secure a spot in main event at the Australian Open.

A lucky loser is picked from the group of players who crash out in the final qualifying round and are subsequently called upon to fill in for those pulling out of the main draw based on their rankings.

Raina, ranked 180 in singles, will get to know her fate ahead of the draw on February 4. She is last among the list of six 'lucky losers', in the women's category, that have been flown into Melbourne by Tennis Australia.

"I have my travelling coach with me (from the Hemant Bendrey academy) and we both were prepared for this," said Ankita to ESPN.

"We even packed in ready-made Indian gourmet food, keeping in mind the 14-day quarantine period. Mentally, when we left for Dubai, we were ready to be in Melbourne."

While other players have complained over the strict rules and regulations, food and other amenities, Raina has had no qualms.

"I haven't had issues with the food yet. Quite honestly, travelling, competing and living in bio-bubbles since last year maybe got me used to it. I've got tested more than 40 times, even on my birthday last week in Dubai."

Indian tennis player Ankita Raina

After a prolonged break from competitive action, she feels it is really difficult to back to matchday mode. So she chose to consult WTA psychologist Caroline Zadina in Paris after getting ousted at the French Open qualifying.

"It was taking me time to pull myself into the match zone. It's been really helpful to work with Caroline because it was difficult to resume playing on the tour post the pandemic. I'm glad I met her during that period. In Pune as well, I have a psychologist - Debashree Marathe - who I work with and it was very helpful when India was in lockdown, especially because we couldn't practise or train outside."

The 2004 Wimbledon Grand Slam final between Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams remains etched in her memory, where the Russian outplayed the leading Grand Slam winner in straight sets (6-1, 6-4). However, watching the Williams' sisters lock horns is her favourite.

"Serena and Venus matches have always been my favourite and also the one when Sania (Mirza) played Serena," she said. 

"I watched the Australian Open for the first time when I was only 14. I happened to be in Melbourne then for the Asian Masters," she concluded.