HANGZHOU: "It's a strange request. I have never given any interview during flights. That too when we are at 30,000 feet". But India's No. 1 women's singles tennis player, Ankita Raina, was gracious enough to oblige with an in-flight chat, where she spoke about her Asian Games chances, partnering Prarthana Thombare in doubles, life in general and her struggles to overcome health complications posed by Covid-19.
Ankita, who has arrived in Hangzhou for her third Asiad appearance, expressed confidence about her chances and the desire to change the colour of her medal - from bronze in Jakarta in 2018 to gold this time.
"That's definitely the goal this time (to finish on top of the podium in singles). This will be my third Asiad and I believe that I have the experience and skills to last the distance. I know my opponents well since I have competed against them in WTA and ITF events. I have had a good run of form since the beginning of this year and the recent top-100 wins have only made me confident about my chances. So, yes, winning the gold is the ultimate target," she said.
Apart from singles, Ankita will lead the country's challenge in doubles as well, partnering Prarthana - a bronze medallist at the Incheon edition of the Games in 2014.
"She is the former India No. 1 in women's doubles and an Olympian. She has a lot of experience playing at the highest level. We go a long way back playing together since our junior days. We have a silver medal from the Asian Indoor Games. It helps when both are of the same age group. It helps develop that bonding. We have played on tours together and in Fed Cups. We both thought that with the Asian Games approaching, it would be great if we play together as a team in women's doubles. I think we complement each other's game."
Ankita also reflected upon the time when she was diagnosed with Covid twice and developed breathing problems.
"It first happened in December 2021 and later in April next year. I somehow managed to recover from the first one, but the second time I had it, it was the lowest phase of my life. I wasn't able to train for six months and missed one tournament after another. Both the times it happened, I was playing tournaments in Europe and I was diagnosed with symptoms upon my return to India. In fact, I remember retiring from an ITF 25K tournament in the UK after developing serious breathing problems. I was in the warm-up area and felt breathless. That was the first time in my entire career that I retired from a tournament. It was a pretty bad phase. Covid has taught me that health is important no matter what. You can't compromise on that," she said.

Source link