Ankita is an Indian professional tennis player and the current Indian No. 1 in both women’s singles (since 2013) and doubles (since 2019)
Raina has won one WTA Challenger in doubles, along with eleven singles and seventeen doubles titles on the ITF Women's Circuit. Raina has also won gold medals in the women's singles and mixed-doubles events at the 2016 South Asian Games, and won a bronze medal in singles at the 2018 Asian Games.
Ankita has been coached by Hemant Bendrey, She believes she plays best when she is representing her country, which is evident from the fact that she won the bronze medal in singles at the 2018 Asian Games.
Giving the Women’s day gift to the country this year, the Indian Fed cup team created history by progressing to the play-offs for the first time ever with Ankita Raina leading the side to a 2-1 win over Indonesia in Dubai.
In an interview with Anubha Singhai, Editor, PHYSIOTIMES, the Right-handed counterpuncher discusses her passion for tennis, her team of Physios, importance of Physiotherapy in her career and her success mantra.
A. ABOUT TENNIS AS A SPORT
A recent study revealed that after the US, India has the second highest number of tennis fans in the world. Which are the key factors that have contributed to the growth of tennis as a sport in the past decade?
Ans – Performance of Indian players in past and present combined with exemplary support from Indian fans across the globe has contributed significantly in the growth of Tennis as a sport over the past decade. Our effort and goal is to play and perform at global level to keep the interest of people in Tennis.
What is the best thing about playing tennis?
1) To compete with world-class professional players at world level
2) Handling high-pressure situations
3) Getting a chance to travel, interact and imbibe different world culture
What are the key requisites for being a good tennis player?
Apart from core tennis skills, physical and mental skills play an important role in the performance of a tennis player. Some other additional qualities would be-
2) Handling Pressure
3) Adapting to new situations
4) Playing outside the comfort zone
If you were to think of a myth or a misconception associated with tennis, what would that be?
I believe one of the myths in tennis revolved around equal prize money for men’s and women’s tennis. The primary reason behind the argument was that Men play 5 sets match so they should get more prize money, however it has been observed that there are equal number of viewers who buy tickets to watch both men’s and women’s matches, hence the prize money should not be biased basis the duration played by a player rather it should depend on attracting more viewers.
Both Badminton and Tennis being racket sports, what are some of the key similarities and striking differences in these sports in your opinion?
Similarities between Tennis & Badminton :Both the sports need mental strength, physical strength and proper technique.
Difference between Tennis & Badminton :The movement technique of both the sport is different.
Badminton needs more explosive leg strength than Tennis and the energy systems used for Badminton is little different from Tennis.
How do we make India a nation to reckon with in tennis as like US?
Currently US does not have many players in Men’s Tennis while in Women’s Tennis they are making a comeback. To have result in line with countries like US we have to conduct more tournaments across India.
Tennis being a very expensive sport if we have more tournaments in India then the players will have to spend less money in traveling abroad to improve their ranking.
B. ABOUT ANKITA RAINA AS A PLAYER
Ankita is to Indian Tennis what Colgate is to toothpaste or Fevicol is to Adhesives. Is such adulation overwhelming or intimidating or both at the same time?
It is both
It is very important to win big matches as it helps the player to participate in higher ranking tournaments. A win at higher ranking tournament can give a good jump in the world ranking. Like every player on circuit I also want to keep improving my ranking as it will give me a chance to keep playing higher level tournaments and reach my goal of playing Main Draw of Grand Slams.
Which are the most common injuries you have come across in your career as a tennis player?
I have been a firm believer of going through proper rehab from my childhood. I have always focused on doing a proper warm up & cool down ritual. This habit has helped me stay injury free. Sometimes we all have to deal with some pain but if we keep working on the rehab- chances of coming out of the injury is very quick.
How many hours of practice do you put in and how else do you train to keep yourself game ready? (Please narrate in details to help our readers understand what goes in the making of a champion.)
When I am off tournament, I do more volume and less intensity but as I go closer to the tournament the volume decreases and the intensity increases. Tennis is all about how fit you are, how well you can move on court and how quickly you can recover next day for the next match. If you are physically fit then you always have an edge over your opponent in difficult matches. I give my highest importance to fitness. I make sure I do everything needed to keep my fitness at peak even when I am playing 7 weeks in a row. Strength training is my favorite and it is also most important to keep going for weeks, so I make sure I do at least 4 strength sessions in a week when I’m not in a tournament. When I’m middle of season, I keep it light and depending on the matches do something that helps me maintain my strength.
What is your “healthy diet” mantra and your diet regimen during training and tournaments?
During tournaments I try maintaining a vegetarian diet which keeps me light during the matches. However, during training season as part of my protein intake I take animal protein to maintain the diet balance.
How do you cope with the psychological pressure of winning all the time?
I don’t look into winning and losing matches. Of course, everybody wants to win but I look more into improving my game tournament to tournament, month over month, year over year.
Is playing in Grand Slams different from playing in other tournaments?
Yes. All Grand slams have a different aura and all Grand slams provide a platform regarding points as well as prize money hence all players try to give their best performance.
C. ROLE OF PHYSIOTHERAPY IN YOUR CAREER
While you have been playing since long, when did you first come to know about physiotherapy as a field formally and that a physio can make a difference to your fitness and the game?
When I was around 16 years old and I was playing competitive National level.
What role has physiotherapy played in helping you manage your injuries and maintain your fitness levels?
Physiotherapy is not only about treating injuries and making the player ready for matches but it is mainly to keep one injury free and be able to perform 12 months a year and in my case it has helped.
Can you recall any specific incidence where you benefitted immensely after an intense physiotherapy session during a critical match or a tournament?
Every tournament it has helped as the Physiotherapist are present and it is the main aspect which helps player to perform.
Who are some of the physios that you have worked with closely in your career?
I have worked with Jyoti Kayarkar, Rutuja Patange, Nidhi Shah & Anuja Pandit.
You are currently working with Anuja Pandit (physio) . How has been the experience?
When I go to Mumbai, I work with Anuja Pandit and during traveling whenever it is possible I take Nidhi Shah or Rutuja Patange as per their availability. In Pune, I work with Jyoti Kayarkar and Rutuja Patange.
How would you rate Indian Physios in their skills and knowledge when compared to their global counterparts?Indian Physios have same skills and are updated with the latest techniques, maybe some of them lack experience in treating Athletes.
Do you think Sports Physiotherapy is a good career option for those aspiring to become one?
Yes, as sports evolve in the country the demand of Physiotherapist, Fitness Trainer, Coach, Biomechanist also increases and currently India is developing a lot in Sports.
D. ANKITA RAINA THE PERSON
Who are some of the key people who have influenced your career as a player?
My Mother - Lalita Raina, My Coach - Hemant Bendrey and my immediate family have an influence on my career and I am inspired by Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams & Sania Mirza.
If we go by “the best is yet to come” dictum, what would that be for you?
My aim is to play Main Draw of all the Grand Slams and make India proud.
While there would be many great moments in your illustrative career, which was the most overwhelming one so far?
Medal win at Asian Games 2018.
What is life beyond Tennis for you?
At present my life is Tennis and I am not thinking beyond it.
If you were to think of key ingredients that make a champion, what would those be?
Perseverance, Adaptation, Breaking boundaries of your comfort zone, Pressure Handling.
It is a great career with Sports evolving in India but I think in initial stage of their career they should work with better physios so that they can get experience to treat many athletes having different injury and problem.
E. At a glance - 20 Interesting Facts about ANKITA RAINA (Just a word or a short sentence)