Ankita Raina shook off a jittery start to put up a valiant fight against 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko before losing the tight opening singles as India trailed 0-1 in the World Group Play-offs of the Billie Jean King Cup in Jurmala, Latvia on Friday. Playing like she always plays this tournament, Ankita, ranked 174th, gave a mighty scare to world no 52 Ostapenko before losing 2-6, 7-5, 5-7 in two hours and 16 minutes.
Producing high-quality tennis, both the players tested all aspects of each other’s game and eventually Ostapenko’s experience of playing high-stake games pulled her through.
The onus to bring India back is now on 621st ranked Karman Kaur Thandi, who will take on wold no 47 Anastasija Sevastova in the second singles.
The match was littered with breaks with the two players fighting hard in the match that kept oscillating.
She plays her best tennis in Billie Jean King Cup and Friday was no different as Ankita put her much superior opponent under the pump.
Initially she was struggling with her first serve and did not have much control over her strokes but after losing the first set Ankita opened up.
She started to stroke freely. The released pressure gave her the liberty to go for her shots, earn points and put Ostapenko in some trouble.
Three successive breaks marked the beginning of the match with Ankita getting broken at love in the very first game of the opening singles.
Ostapenko’s range of shots meant that Ankita was running on both the flanks to retrieve the balls.
The Indian was one point away from going 3-0 up in the second set but dropped serve from 40-15. She went 5-2 up but allowed Ostapenko to make it 5-5.
A forehand error by Ostapenko gave Ankita a set point but the Latvian served well to save that.
The Indian had three set points in 12th game and converted the second one when Ostapenko hit a forehand wide, going for a cross-court winner.
Ankita broke back in the fourth game as Ostapenko was struggling with her back. Down 0-40 in the fifth, Ankita held with Ostapenko’s error helping her.
She dragged it to the final set which was neck-and-neck 5-5. At 30-all Ankita lost her serve to give her rival a chance to serve out the match.
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