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Beats world No. 81 Yulia Putintseva
For a second day in a row, Ankita Raina gave a display well above and beyond her current ranking of 253 on the WTA table.
India’s No. 1 women’s player stunned world No. 81 Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan — the secondhighest ranked player here — with a scoreline reading 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 in two hours and 25 minutes of stunning tennis. Ankita, who had stunned Lin Zhu of China on Wednesday, pulled off one of the biggest wins of her career against a player ranked in the top-30 just last year.
However, just like on Day One, Ankita’s show couldn’t prevent India’s defeat to Kazakhstan in this Fed Cup Asia-Oceania Group I Pool A tie.
The hosts once again went down 1-2 with Karman Kaur Thandi losing 3-6, 2-6 to world no. 55 Zarina Diyas in just an hour’s time. Then, Diyas and Putintseva combined to defeat Ankita and Prarthna Thombare 6-0, 6-4 in an hour and two minutes.
The result of the tie doesn’t take away any shine off Ankita’s performance on the day. Like Wednesday, the Gujarat girl came out swinging against the 2016 French Open quarterfinalist.
Putintseva, who lost the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy final to Kristina Mladenovic last year, is no pushover. The Moscow-born star has been representing Kazakhstan for the last six years. She was powerful on both flanks, and was backed by an equally impressive serve.
Ankita, who celebrated her 25th birthday last month, wasn’t prepared to take the backward step against her higher-ranked opponent. The Indian maintained a very high first-serve percentage (76%) and made very few errors throughout the match. One break of serve in the eighth game was enough for Ankita to secure the first set. The loss of the first set rattled Putintseva, who appears to be someone who wears her emotions on her sleeve. Ankita made full use of the loss of concentration by breaking serve again in the first game of the second set.
The Kazakhs even demanded that the music on the loudspeakers — the Chak De India song — between games be shut off as well. Tournament director Col. Ranbir Chauhan of the All-Indian Tennis Association had to intervene to ensure that music continued to be played to keep the home players motivated and the crowd cheerful.
Ankita appeared to be in the driver’s seat but couple of horrendous line-calls at 40-40 in the second game gave the break right back to Putintseva. The line calls seemed to have thrown Ankita off her game.
WTA 125K Series
Ankita upsets Stosur
Ankita Raina recorded the biggest win of her career yet when she scored a stunning victory over former US Open champion Samantha Stosur in the opening round of the WTA 125K Series event in Anning, China.
Ankita, high on confidence after reaching the final of a $60,000 event in Istanbul last week, overcame third seed and World No. 77 Stosur 7-5, 2-6, 7-5 in two hours and 49 minutes to advance to the second round of the Kunming Open, the clay court tournament. It was Ankita’s first win over a top-100 player in her 11th such meeting on the professional circuit, although she had beaten a handful of them in Fed Cup ties.
The world 178th ranked Indian came back from being a set down twice in the opener, and then staved off Stosur’s challenge in the decider when the Aussie staged a fightback of her own from being a break down.
2011 US Open Champion Stosur had beaten Ankita in straight sets in qualifying of the WTA Tour event in Dubai last year. The 35-year-old was coming into the event on a positive note after leading Australia to their first Fed Cup final in 26 years with a crucial doubles win in the semifinal against Belarus.
“I had played her before, so I knew what was going to come and I was mentally prepared. Considering her strength, I had a plan, which worked today,” said Ankita, who next faces local favourite Kai-Lin Zhang. The Pune-based 26-year-old was probably attributing to Stosur’s heavy top spin on forehand and as well as serve, which had left her dazed in Dubai.
On Wednesday, however, it was a see-saw battle with both players struggling -- Ankita with her own nerves and Stosur with conditions -- to assert themselves in the long-drawn contest. Ankita’s familiarity with the conditions, she had played there twice before, seemed to give her the edge.