Mumbai: India's Ankita Raina continued her impressive progress in the USD 125,000 L&T Mumbai Open by outclassing her higher ranked opponent Peangtarn Plipuech of Thailand in straight sets to make a maiden entry into the singles quarter finals of a WTA Series event.
Ankita, who defeated Russian Veronika Kudermetova also in straight sets in the first round of the WTA series event yesterday, looked much more impressive as she totally dominated her Thai rival, ranked 244, 6-2 6-2 in an hour and seven minutes in the round of 16 clash at the Cricket Club of India courts.
The Indian woman, who returned serve well, hit fluently on both flanks and also played some delicate drop shots, broke her rival's serve three times in each of the two sets to come out convincing winner. She dropped her serve once each in either set.
The 24-year-old Ankita, ranked 293, will now meet Amandine Hesse of France, ranked 257th, for a place in the semi-finals. The French woman defeated qualifier Deniz Khazuniuk 6-3 4-6 6-1 in another pre quarter final clash that lasted 2 hours and 23 minutes.
This was the fifth meeting at the ITF/WTA events between the two Asian rivals in which Ankita has nosed ahead 3-2.
The Indian woman won in 2010 at Mandya and 2014 (in ITF) and today, both in Mumbai. She had lost in Navi Mumbai and Hong Kong in 2013 (ITF) and 2015 (WTA).
Ankita started on the wrong foot against the 25-year-old Plipuech, who had ousted sixth seeded Australian Lizette Cabrera in the first round, by dropping her serve in the third game of the first set to trail 1-2, but then broke her rival's serve thrice to win the set.
But the Ahmedabad-born, Pune-based Indian player hit back strongly immediately by breaking her rivals serve in the very next game to draw level 2-2. After holding her serve, Ankita put pressure on her rivals serve and broke the opponents serve when the Thai girl double-faulted at break-point to take a 4-2 lead.
Ankita was under pressure in the next game but managed to hold her serve after saving a break point after two deuces with a delicate drop. In command at 5-2, Ankita once again broke the Thais serve with two brilliant shots with a cross-court forehand on the run followed by a down-the-line winner to win the set 6-2 in 36 minutes.
By now confident, tournament wild card Ankita got an early break in the second set to go 2-0 up but at 3-1 had a wobble as she was down 0-40 on her serve but held it after the second deuce to lead 4-1.
The Thai woman had her serve broken again in the 6th game to trail 1-5 but Ankita, serving for the match, played a loose game and dropped serve after saving two break points.
But Ankita got back into the groove and nipped the fight-back from the Thai immediately afterwards with attacking play on both flanks in the next game to hold three match-points and won on the first when Plipuech hit her forehand wide when put under pressure by the Indian player.
"Since I played her before I knew she would put the ball down the line and try to move me side to side. So I had to mix it up a little bit. I normally play an aggressive game but I realised that the powerful shots were not the right ones to play, so I tried to use my drop shots to break her rhythm," said Ankita after her victory.
She said she had trained with her coach Hemant Bendre in the morning.
"I had practiced this in training in the morning and the game was a much smarter one in comparison to the previous round," she added.
Later, top seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, at 96 the lone top 100 entrant, was given a tough time by China's Jia Jing-Lu, ranked 207, before she secured her spot in the last eight.
Aryna won a protracted battle lasting 2 hours and 33 minutes 6(5)-7 6-2 7-6(4) in the last round of 16 singles match.