Ankita Raina’s gallant battle ended in agony again, as her defeat against world number 47 Anastasia Sevastova in the mandatory playoff game on Saturday brought the Indian team back to the Asia / Oceania group in the Billy Jean King Cup.
After her phenomenal battle against 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko on Friday, India’s number one again showed a belly for a battle against superb players, but Sevastova sealed the match to give her side a relentless 3-0 lead.
Ranked 174, Ankita lost the first singles match 0-6 6-7 (5) to Sevastova, who did better than the legendary Serena Williams in her team’s previous draw against the United States.
India won promotion to the playoffs for the first time in the history of the tournament.
After being knocked out in the starting set, Ankita had two points at 5-2 in the second set, but failed to convert. After these chances were blown away, Sevastova whipped up four consecutive games to break India’s hopes.
Ankita kept a match point to pull her to the tiebreak, but Sevastova’s vast experience helped her seal the tie.
Ankita’s forehand, flying over the baseline of the breakpoint, gave the Latvian first break in the match in the first game. Sevastova made it 2-0, although Ankita stretched the game with its fierce rebounds.
In the third game, Ankita hit a backhand on the playing point to be in danger again, but found a crushing backhand winner on the line to be on the lead.
However, the cunning Sevastova made Ankita run on both flanks and eventually made her a couple.
Ankita’s second double in a pair gave Sevastova a chance to get the second breakthrough for a 3-0 lead and she got it when Ankita made a backhand error with a weak return with one hand that did not cross the net.
The Indian could not even get on board, and Sevastova shouted. However, there was drama in the second set with Ankita, but again surprised the home team, increasing his game by several degrees.
A backhand mistake by the Latvian gave Ankita two points for a breakthrough in the second game, and another gave the Indian a 2-0 lead in the second set.
Ankita made it 3-0, serving the next game in love. However, the cushion was lost when Ankita released his serve in the fifth game, thanks to unforced errors.
A series of unforced home mistakes meant that the Indian got a new break in the sixth game when Sevatova buried her backhand in the net to give Ankita a 4-2 lead, which turned into a beautiful 5-2 with a confident hold.
Ankita had a chance to close the set in her favor in the next game and force a decision, but Sevastova served well to save both.
From then on, Sevastova controlled the game, although Ankita saved a few game points.