Healthy on court rivalry brewing up

The Asian Age.  | Irfan Haji

Sports, Tennis

Ankita and Rutuja, the two rising stars of Indian women’s tennis, have made competitive forays in recent times.

The 21-year-old fought off a second set comeback by 2014 champion Ankita to ultimately prevail 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-2 in two hours and 27 minutes.

Ever since Rutuja Bhosale returned from USA after completing her graduation, she has been training in Pune with Ankita Raina under coach Hemant Bendrey. The duo combined to play doubles in the L&T Mumbai Open WTA 125K series recently at Cricket Club of India tennis courts before being knocked out in the first round.

Both had received wild cards in the singles category, but Rutuja, who was carrying a shoulder injury, was knocked out in the first round, while Ankita kept the Indian challenge alive by marching into the quarters before losing to French player Hesse Amandine in straight sets.

Since then, a healthy on court rivalry seems to brewing between the two future stars of Indian women’s tennis. They met in the first round of the $25,000 NECC ITF Women’s Tennis tournament in Pune last week where wild card entrant Rutuja caused a major upset by knocking out India No 1 and third seed Ankita Raina in the singles first round.

The 21-year-old fought off a second set comeback by 2014 champion Ankita to ultimately prevail 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-2 in two hours and 27 minutes. It was Rutuja’s first-ever victory over the 24-year-old Ankita. She went on to qualify for the quarters before losing to Olga Doroshina of Russia 4-6, 4-6.

However, on Tuesday Ankita got sweet revenge by knocking out Rutuja in straight sets in the first round of $25,000 ITF Women’s Tennis tournament in Vashi. The experienced Ankita prevailed 6-3, 7-5 after a dual of one hour and 40 minutes.

“We are good friends off the court and yes there is a healthy competition  between us. We both want to improve,” Rutuja said.

“It was a good match (against Ankita). But my shoulder was tired and I was taking a lot of painkillers. I couldn’t handle rallies and went for my shots in the second set which was closer. My shoulder has been bothering me for quite some time now. I played in Solapur and Pune through pain. In Pune, I had to play two three setters and I was exhausted before the quarter-final,” she added.

The lanky tennis player with a power packed forehand and equally strong backhand, will now take a brief break from tennis to work on her shoulder injury which has been bothering her since the age of 17. “I am not going to even touch my racket for next 10-12 days. I will undergo rehab and come back stronger next year,” she said.

The fifth edition of the Navi Mumbai International Women’s Tennis Championship (IWTC), an initiative of former Thane Guardian Minister Ganesh Naik and New Mumbai Sports Association (NMSA) along with ITF, got under way at the state of the art NMSA tennis courts in Vashi from Saturday. The main draws started from Monday.

Karman knocks out Lu
Besides Ankita another emerging Indian women’s tennis star Karman Kaur Thandi was the only Indian to march into singles second round after 6-4, 6-3 win over Sarah Beth Grey of Great Britain on Tuesday. The India No 2 went on to knock out third seed Jia-Jung Lu of China in straight sets on Wednesday to march into the quarter-finals. Lu who was the only one to stretch eventual Mumbai Open winner Aryna Sabalenka to three sets last month here, got hammered by a resurgent Thandi. The Punjab teenager won 6-3, 6-0 after 70 minutes of play on Wednesday. Karman had reached the quarter-finals in Pune also last week.

However, Thandi lost a thrilling first round doubles match while partnering Erin Routliffe of Canada against second seeded Spanish-Latvian pair of Georgina Garcia-Perez and Diana Marcinkevica 3-6, 7-6 (5), 10-7. The Indian pair of Dhruthi Tatachar Venugopal and Riya Bhatia however crossed the first round barrier after defeating Thai pair of Nudnida Luangnam and Varunya Wongteanchai 6-3, 6-4 on Tuesday night.