SRINAGAR: India’s No 1 tennis star, right now, is a Kashmir Pandit girl, Ankita Raina. Early this month, she became third Indian woman tennis player to reach the top-200 rankings in singles and reach a career-best 197 in the World Tennis Association (WTA) chart.
Earlier, this feat was held by two other female tennis players Sania Mirza and Nirupama Vaidyanathan, media reports said. Sania reached rank 27 in singles in 2007 and Nirupama’s 134 in 1997.
What is more interesting is that Ankita has Kashmir origins and lives in Gujarat, post-migration. She is 25 years of age.
“Ankita, 25, played superbly in the Fed Cup Asia-Oceania tournament in Delhi; she competed hard against former World No 4 Samantha Stosur of Australia in Dubai, and as the icing on the cake, she won the $25,000 ITF women’s singles title in Gwalior,” Kamesh Srinivasan reports in the Sports Star. “If she felt like a princess, it was only natural, for Ankita was staying in the Taj Usha Kiran Palace, which is now a heritage hotel, in Gwalior. The quiet ambience of the nine-acre property, plus the aarti every evening at the small Ganesh temple there had helped Ankita stay calm and focussed. She won the title in Gwalior four years after her earlier singles triumph here.”
The day she broke the record, she went for a thanksgiving pooja.
The ace tennis star is from south Kashmir’s Tral town in Pulwama district. According to the information available on the internet, she belongs to family from Pinglish village in Tral. Her father is from Pinglish and mother from Drussu village.
Ankita’s family migrated from Kashmir to Jammu. They later left for Gujarat where they settled in 2007. It was in Jammu where Ankita was born on January 11, 1993.
“Thank you honourable PM sir @narendramodi for supporting me at the right time (in 2013) and giving wings to my dreams,” Ankita tweeted minutes after she jumped 15 places to reach in the top 200 bracket.
Ashok Pandit, a Kashmir Pandit activist also thanked the Prime Minister by tweeting: “@narendramodi ji. @ankita_champ a #KashmiriPandit along with her family settled in Gujarat after the exodus from #Kashmir. Sir as a CM of Gujarat U played an important role by supporting her for which We are really thankful to U.”
Ankita had met Narendra Modi in 2014, before he became the Prime Minister, and complained that despite being No 1 in India she is unable to attend the tournaments abroad. Since then, she has rarely missed a tennis event. Though in one of her tweets, she has uploaded the photograph of her coaches, a trainer, a physiotherapist, a sports psychologist, a dietitian and a doctor that seemingly had accompanied her, the early 2018 reportage suggest she was still low on funds.
On April 9, 2018, according to WTA chart, she stands at 197 ranking, thus becoming the third Indian woman tennis player after Sania Mirza and Nirupama Vaidyanathan to make it to top 200 in history.
Ankita has started playing tennis at age of four and credit goes to her mother, Lalita, herself a sports enthusiast who has been a college level athlete. Her mother would accompany her to a nearby tennis court. Ankita’s father works in Ahmedabad as her mother, an LIC employee, was transferred to Gurgaon early this year.
However, before reaching the No 1 slot in India, a position she is holding for five years now, Raina had already many feathers to her cap. She had won six singles and seven doubles titles on the ITF tour in her career. Raina has also won Gold medals in the women’s singles and mixed doubles events at the 2016 South Asian Games. On April 2, 2018, she had reached her best singles ranking of world number 212.
Post-migration, the family has settled in Ahmadabad. Raina started her career at her early age, at the age of five. In 2007, she relocated to the PYC Hindu Gymkhana sports facility in Pune, where she began working with Hemant Bendrey and Ketan Dhumal.
Raina is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce in Pune. At the same time, however, she is employed with the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) since 2014. Raina speaks Kashmiri Hindi, Gujarati and English. Her mother tongue is Kashmiri.
Ankita told the Sports Star that she hopes to get into top 100 within two years. She is working overtime for the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta. She plays between 25 to 30 weeks in a year.