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Ankita Raina's Grand Slam debut: A look back at all Indian women who have featured in a Grand Slam

Sania Mirza has been the most successful Indian women's tennis player at Grand Slams 
By Samrat Chakraborty

Ankita Raina is set to make her maiden major appearance at the Australian Open 2021. She will become the fourth Indian woman - after Nirupama Mankad (1971), Nirupama Vaidyanathan (1998), and Sania Mirza - to feature in a Grand Slam main draw.

Shikha Uberoi in 2004, also featured in the US Open - but the Indian-origin player represented America and was given a wildcard entry into the qualifiers.

The New Jersey-based player clinched victories over Ivana Abramovic, Anne Kremer and Vilmarie Castellvi to qualify for the main draw. Uberoi began her campaign at the US Open with a win over Japan's Saori Obata but was ousted by Venus Williams in the second round.

We trace the journey of Indian women at Grand Slam events:

Ankita Raina in action
Picture by Facebook/Ankita Raina

Nirupama Mankad (1971)

Nirupama Mankad was the first Indian woman to feature in a Grand Slam main draw.

She qualified for the mixed doubles in Wimbledon 1971 with Anand Amritraj after beating the pair of I El Shafei and L Pericoli in straight sets. The Indian mixed doubles pair were, however, knocked out of the Grand Slam in the second round.

Mankad stamped her authority on the Indian tennis circuit from 1965 to 1978 as the top-ranked player. She bagged the national championship, for a remarkable, seven times during this time.

Her husband, Ashok Mankad, was an international cricketer while son Harsh went on to play Davis Cup for India.

Nirupama Vaidyanathan (1998)

Nirupama Vaidyanathan was the first Indian woman to feature in singles of a major.

She was given a wilddard entry into the 1998 Australian Open main draw. Her maiden appearance became all the more memorable as she beat Gloria Pizzichini from Italy in the first round.

Vaidyanathan, however, lost to Magdalena Grzybowska in the second round and was knocked out of the tournament. It turned out to be her only appearance in singles at a Grand Slam.

Sania Mirza (2005)

Sania Mirza grew up to be one the finest Indian women's tennis players. She has six Grand Slam titles to her name - three in doubles and as many in mixed doubles - making her an inspiration for all the upcoming tennis players in the country.

But her journey in majors started at the 2005 Australian Open. Mirza was 18 when she made her Grand Slam debut.

She bettered the record of Nirupama Vaidyanathan, as she beat Hungary’s Petra Mandula in the second round. Her match against Serena Williams, in the third round, is one of the most memorable moments in Indian tennis.

Mirza showed plenty of fight and pulled Williams out of her comfort zone with her striking forehand. But Williams, seeded seventh in the tournament, eventually prevailed 6-1, 6-4.

Mirza's best singles result at a major came at the US Open later that year when she reached the fourth round.

Ankita Raina (2020)

Raina at 28, is set to be the fourth Indian to participate in a Grand Slam event.

The Ahmedabad-player got a lucky break as she made it to the women's doubles draw at the Melbourne major. She lost the final round in the singles qualifying but had traveled to the Melbourne, hoping for a berth in the main draw as a lucky loser, which did not materialize.

She will participate in the women's doubles main draw with her partner Romania's Mihaela Buzarnescu. The duo are set to take on the Australian pair of Olivia Gadecki and Belinda Woolcock in the opening round on Wednesday.