Ankita Raina, 28, made the cut for the women’s doubles event of the Australian Open on Sunday, becoming only the third Indian woman to secure a place in the main draw of a Grand Slam.
Only Sania Mirza and Nirupama Vaidyanathan have competed in the Grand Slam main draws for India before.
Raina missed out on the women’s singles main draw, but still had a chance to qualify as a ‘lucky loser’ till the completion of the first round. But she signed up with Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnecu and earned a direct entry.
“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 moments after getting confirming 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.
“People start believing. We touch many small milestones but this one is at a pinnacle. Anyone who starts playing professional tennis, dreams of playing in a Grand Slam.”
“Regardless of the fact that it is doubles, I will take it. I kept at it. I stayed in the process. Maybe next time, I will play singles too. After years of hard work, it is starting with doubles but singles will happen. It’s first, so special,” she added.
Ankita said initially she did not find her name in the draw and was disappointed.
“I can’t believe it, I missed my name in the sheet. After practice I asked for the draw and frantically looked for my name. I did not find it. Then my coach called me to say I have made it,” she said.
Ankita and Romanian southpaw Mihaela will face Australian wild card pair of Olivia Gadecki and Belinda Woolcock in the first round.
“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 said.
India now has four Indians in the season’s first Grand Slam: Sumit Nagal in the men’s singles; Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan with their respective partners.