Ankita Raina became only the fifth Indian woman tennis player in the Open era to secure a place in the main draw of a Grand Slam as she made the cut for the women’s doubles event of the Australian Open 2021.
The year’s first Grand Slam starts tomorrow, after missing out on the women’s singles main draw, she still has a chance to qualify as a ‘lucky loser’ till the completion of the first round, but the 28-year-old realised her long-time dream when she signed up with Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu and earned a direct entry.
Nirupama Mankad (1971), Nirupama Vaidyanathan (1998), Sania Mirza and Indian-American Shikha Uberoi (2004) have competed in the Grand Slam main draws for the country. Ankita is only the second Indian after Sania, a six-time Grand Slam champion, to compete in the women’s doubles of a tennis major.
The proud Indian, who played a key role in Indian Fed Cup team’s tremendous progress, said although singles hold a different significance, making the doubles too is special.
I know it’s doubles but India’s name will be there: Raina
“It’s first main draw of a Grand Slam, so singles or doubles, I will take it. It’s special. Years of hard work, toil and now I am there. Not only my hard work but blessings and support of countless people have brought me here, I can’t forget that,” Ankita told PTI after her entry.
“I know it’s doubles but India’s name will be there. These are the moments that spark something among people. Maybe a few will start dreaming that it’s possible,” she added.
Ankita had signed up with Romanian southpaw Mihaela, who was a top-50 singles player before injury pegged her back, on Friday. They will open their campaign against the Australian wild card pair of Olivia Gadecki and Belinda Woolcock.
“A friend told me that Mihaela is looking for a partner. I spoke to her and she agreed. I have not played with her before but I have played with a lefty on the tour. It makes a good combination. I am looking forward to it,” she concluded.