Raina is amongst the six women eligible for lucky loser spot and is currently in Melbourne
Ankita Raina is set to play against Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov of Spain in the first round of the Yarra Valley Classic, a warm-up tournament to the year’s first Grand Slam, the Australian Open.
The Indian tennis player had played against Bolsova only once in her career, at the 2020 Tyler ITF competition in which she was beaten 7-5, 6-2 in the first round.
Raina travelled to Melbourne as one of the six lucky losers after losing in the third round of the Australian Open qualifiers. Only players in the bio-bubble are allowed to compete at the warm-up events, which gave Raina a chance to play the WTA 500 tournament.
But she is yet to regain her best form in the post-pandemic period. Since making a return to to the court in August, she had progressed to the second round in only one tournament, and that was at an ITF $25,000 event in Prague.
There is little doubt that Raina who is currently ranked 180th in the world is in for a stiff challenge against 103rd-ranked Bolsova. But to her advantage, she has already played three matches in the season whereas, the Spaniard will return to action for the first time since her loss in Dubai to Polona Hercog on December 9.
Meanwhile, top-ranked Indian men’s player Sumit Nagal is set to take on Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis in the opening round of the ATP Murray River Open, starting on Monday in Melbourne.
Berankis, a former junior US Open champion, is currently ranked No 72 in the world, 66 places ahead of the Indian. The warm-up event will give the Indian much-needed match tune-up, as he hasn’t played a match for the last three months.
He pulled out of the ATP Challenger event in Hamburg, in October, due to a shoulder injury to effectively end a truncated 2020 season. Nagal is set to compete at his first Australian Open later in February as he has received a wild card into the main draw.
Rohan Bopanna will also be in action at the Murray River Open, partnering Frederik Nielsen in doubles. The pair will take on wildcards James Duckworth and Marc Polmans of Australia in the opening round.