Rutuja Sampatrao Bhosale has been competing at the Fujairah International Women Tournament
Rutuja Sampatrao Bhosale has been competing at the Fujairah International Women Tournament Image Credit: Alaric Gomes/Gulf News

Dubai: At 24, and with a blossoming career before her, Rutuja Sampatrao Bhosale is at a crossroads. Having made her debut for the India Fed Cup team in 2012 as a teenager, the Shrirampur-born girl had many reasons to have high hopes of making it big in women’s tennis.

In fact, she was headed towards fulfilling her dream, until the coronavirus pandemic intervened last year leaving the 24-year-old asking questions while trying to eke out a living as a professional on the competitive tennis tour.

Earlier this week, the Indian fell to Chinese Taipei’s En-shuo Laing in straight sets in the final round of qualifying at the Fujairah International Women Tournament at the Fujairah Tennis and country Club (FTCC), leaving her asking the questions on behalf of the vast majority of players ranked below 300 in the WTA rankings.

“I want to climb up the rankings and this can be done only by playing a lot of tournaments. I feel like players outside the top 300 didn’t get too many chances to play last year and I only hope the calendar opens up a little bit soon this season,” Bhosale told Gulf News.

“There are a lot of 15K events around, but not many higher tournaments. So, it’s like difficult to make the choices and one is left questioning if it is worth it going for these 15K events. I hope that I or girls like me get into a little bigger events to accumulate some points.”

Bhosale was one of the heroes of India notching a historic performance at the Dubai Tennis Stadium in the first week of March 2020 when the country joined China in qualifying for the Fed Cup play-offs.

After that, the Pune-based girl went into lockdown back home until she managed to travel to Egypt and participate in a handful of ITF events in October and November. Bhosale had a great restart to the 2020 season while winning the opening 15k ITF event in Sharm Al Shaikh at the end of October beating Anna Siskova in straight sets. After that, Bhosale has been struggling for competitions.

The Indian took a couple of weeks off during the Christmas break and started preseason training earlier this month in Pune where she was joined for a few days by India’s No. 1 singles player Ankita Raina.

“I had taken some time off and then just after I had started training again, I got the acceptance for the qualifiers in Fujairah. I wanted to compete and that’s why I decided to come and give it a try,” she said. “The match [against En-shuo Liang] went really quick to be honest. I practised on the outside court and I had to play on centre court which is a bit faster than the outer courts. The score may look a bit one-sided, but the match was much closer.”

Seeded No. 2, Bhosale will pair up with Great Britain’s Naiktha Bains to play the Georgian duo of Mariam Bolkvadze and Ekaterina Gorgodze in the doubles quarter-finals in Fujairah on Wednesday. After she finishes in the UAE, Bhosale will have less than two weeks back in Pune before she turns her attention to a couple of 25K events in South Africa.

“There is nothing on the ITF calendar for players like me except for the two 25K events in South Africa. But then again there is a new strain of the virus coming from South Africa and it is such a gamble whether I should go there or I shouldn’t,” Bhosale said. “And then I still have to get my visa done. I really don’t know how that is going to turn out fingers crossed.

“There is a lot of uncertainty at the moment, and to get visas is also difficult right now, so I don’t know what is next. What can we do? We are just trying to train and stay fit. But just training doesn’t help us get the ranking points. This is a 25K, but it is a much tougher 25K. It was very difficult to handle my first match, but it is a good eye-opener for me and I cannot be harsh on myself. I need to work a few things going forward and see how that works out.”