The Indian challenge in singles competition ended with a sluggish India No. 1 Ankita Raina losing in straight sets to Danka Kovinic (MNE) in the 2nd round of the L&T Mumbai Open WTA $125K Series, organized by MSLTA and CCI and played at the CCI courts, here, on Wednesday.

Struggling to find her rhythm and not appearing her sprightly self, Ankita seemed to be suffering from the effects of her hard fought three set victory over Rutuja Bhosale in the first round that finished past midnight on Wednesday. A brief fight back in the second set was all Ankita can take solace in before crashing out 2-6, 5-7.

In other 2nd round matches, top seed Zheng Saisai of China booked her spot in the quarter-finals with a straightforward 6-4, 6-2 win over Bibiane Schoofs of The Netherlands as also fifth seed Luksika Khumkhum of Thailand, who got the better of Barbora Stefkova (CZE) 6-3, 6-4.

Ankita, who had made the quarter-finals of this event last year, may have fancied her chances against Danka, but not being 100 per cent meant she was broken four times in the first set and though she got back one of her own, lost it 2-6.

The second set began in similar fashion, with an early break against her, but the Indian, always a fighter, hung in to not only break back but level scores at 4-4 and go ahead 5-4 with another break. However, Ankita could not serve out the set and was broken again to lose the advantage. Danka, sensing victory, then held for 6-5 and broke Ankita again to wrap up the match.

I have to work on my fitness as i had not sufficiently recovered from yesterday’s match, i was a bit slow on in the first set and i got my rythm back very late in the game. I am glad that WTA Tournaments are coming to India as this has been a great platform for me and it helped me a great deal last year” said Ankita in a post match interview.

In late night action on the centre court on Wednesday, Raina had a struggle on her hands and had to bring all her experience and court craft to the fore to get the better of her training partner Rutuja Bhosale 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5), the match ending past the midnight hour.

The slug fest between the two hard hitting players last for 2 hours 17 minutes before Ankita capped her brilliant fightback from 1-4 in the decider by winning the tie-breaker 7-5.

It was the younger Rutuja who was dictating terms in the first set, attacking Ankita’s serve and rattling the senior pro into trying for the little extra, which saw her spraying balls wide. A 6-4 scoreline in 40 minutes raised visions of an upset.

However, discomfort from a strapped shoulder and problems with her shoes seemed to have upset Rutuja’s equilibrium and the second set was soon in Ankita’s bag,  setting up the climax.

The decider saw Rutuja come out her corner swinging and was soon 4-1 up with two breaks of serve. It was at this juncture that Raina held her nerve as  she broke Rutuja to get a toe hold, then held for a foothold, was level with another break and went ahead with another hold of serve to lead 5-4. With both players holding serve the match went into the tie-breaker, where Ruruja, down 2-6, clawed her way back to 5-6, before Ankita served out the point and the match.

2nd round: 1-Saisai Zheng (CHN) bt Bibiane Schoofs (Ned) 6-4, 6-2; 5-Luksika Khum Khum (Thai) bt Barbora Stefkova (CZE) 6-3, 6-4; J Lu (China) bt Hibino Nao (Japan) 6-4, 6-3; Danka Kovinic (MNE) bt Ankita Raina 6-2, 7-5.

1st round: Ankita Raina bt Rutuja Bhosale 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5)