Dubai: India’s top player Ankita Raina was joined by China’s two-time Grand Slam champion Peng Shuai into the second round of the 21st Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge (AHTC) that got under way at the Habtoor Grand Beach Resort and Spa tennis courts on Monday.
Raina, whose last major success was a bronze medal at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, took her time while packing off Slovakian wild card Tereza Mihalikova 7-6, 6-3 after 2013 Wimbledon and 2014 French Open champion Peng had battled over two hours for a 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 win over Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic earlier in the day.
The 25-year-old Raina has so far won seven singles and 14 doubles titles on the ITF Women’s Circuit. In April this year, she entered the top-200 singles rankings to become only the fourth Indian woman to achieve this feat — after Sania Mirza, Nirupama Sanjeev and Shikha Uberoi.
Raina took her time and it was only a tie-breaker that separated the two players. “The first match is always tough as one needs time to get adjusted to the surface. Now that I have taken this first round, I feel I can use that bit of confidence as I progress here,” Raina told Gulf News.
“The bronze medal in Indonesia has done a great deal to my confidence and I feel I can take on any player at the moment. The idea here would be to take one match at a time and see how far I can push myself. There are certain aspects of my game that I want to work on here, and I hope to use this confidence to improve during this week,” she added.
Other notable winners on the opening day included Bulgaria’s Viktoriya Tomova, eighth-seeded Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia and Luxembourg girl Mandy Minella. Tomova breezed past Germany’s Carina Witthoeft 6-3, 6-3, Zidansek went the distance for a 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 win over Belarussian Olga Govortsova, while Minella had it easy with a 6-1, 6-4 win against Greek girl Valentini Grammatikopoulou.
The remaining of the Round One matches will get under way at the Habtoor Grand Beach Resort and Spa tennis courts from 10am on Tuesday.
Ankita Raina bt Tereza Mihalikova 7-6, 6-3; Katarina Zavatska bt Monika Kilnarova 6-4, 6-4; Peng Shuai bt Viktorija Golubic 2-6, 6-2, 7-6; Tamara Zidansek bt Olga Govortsova 6-7, 6-4, 7-6; Viktoriya Tomova bt Carina Witthoeft 6-3, 6-3; Mandy Minella bt Valentini Grammatikopoulou 6-1, 6-4.