The lockdown caused by the Coronavirus pandemic across the globe has been a tough time for everyone. It is especially tough on the athletes and sportspersons, who are used to leading an active life often travelling around the world to take part in various tournaments or just to train and prepare for professional events.
India’s No. 1 women’s tennis player Ankita Raina isn’t too upset after being stuck at home for the last three months. In fact, Ankita counts herself to be lucky that she didn’t catch a flight to Australia after returning home from a historic Fed Cup qualifying campaign in March.
“After playing Fed Cup in Dubai, I returned home on March 7 or 8. I trained in Pune for the next four days and then had to fly to Australia for a few ITF tournaments. I delayed my departure by a day because already the situation was becoming quite dire due to Coronavirus around the world,” Raina told indiansportsnews.com during an exclusive interview from Pune.
“That night I got a message from one of my friends and a fellow tennis player that Australia had been locked-down and a little while later I got a mail from the ITF that all the tennis tournaments had been postponed/cancelled. I was really glad I decided to delay my departure as a few days later India also announced its lockdown,” she added.
The 27-year-old has been in tremendous form over the last year after winning the Asian Games bronze medal in 2018 and then lifting India into the Fed Cup World Group playoff after a gap of over 30 years. She played in eight matches for India in the Fed Cup qualifiers – winning two singles and pairing up with Sania Mirza to win three crucial doubles encounters.
Raina is very upbeat about the time she has spent under lockdown over the last few months.
“I have been training at home, whatever little I could manage to do inside the house – more of body and weight workouts. I took a few ITF and WTA courses and attended a few webinars organised by WTA, including a very important one by Billie Jean King which was very insightful. Apart from this I have been doing a lot of reading as well as practising meditation through Art of Living,” the bubbly tennis player said.
India’s top singles player at world No. 163, Raina believes there is nothing more important self-preservation at the moment.
“No one saw thing coming. I think it is best to look at the positive side of things, take precautions and follow guidelines as much as possible. Safety of oneself and other is the most important thing at the moment.
“The great thing is that in the last few years I was never able to spend so much time at home, with my parents. So that is one thing I treasure a lot,” she said.
In this tough economic climate post-Covid, Raina remained confident about the support from her sponsors.
“My sponsors have been very supportive during this time. They know that we are all in this tough situation. My sponsors ONGC called up regularly to check my well being, conducted motivational sessions, Adani group have supported me a lot as well as the Sports Authority of Gujarat (SAG),” she added.
Asked how her goals will change, when tennis finally gets underway, Raina said, “At the start of this year my aim was to break into the top 100, now that has changed. My long term goal is to still try win an Olympic medal and do well in a Grand Slam.”
Finally, asked how much confidence she is will take after an incredible show in the Fed Cup, she said, “Fed Cup success was one of the best thing that could happen to me. Even before the Fed Cup I had a good couple of weeks, winning an ITF doubles title in Nonthaburi. Definitely such performances are a positive thing and I will take that confidence whenever I am back on the court.”