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Ankita Raina on Sunday became only the fifth Indian woman tennis player in Open era to secure a place in the main draw of a Grand Slam as she made the cut for the women’s doubles event of the Australian Open.


The year’s first Grand Slam starts on Monday.


After missing out on the women’s singles main draw, she still had a chance to qualify as a ‘lucky loser’ till the completion of the first round, but the 28-year-old realised her long-time dream when she signed up with Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnecu and earned a direct entry.


Nirupama Mankad (1971), Nirupama Vaidyanathan (1998), Sania Mirza and Indian-American Shikha Uberoi (2004) have competed in the Grand Slam main draws for the country.


Ankita is only the second Indian after Sania, a six-time Grand Slam champion, to compete in the women’s doubles of a tennis major.


Nirupama was the first to crack a singles Grand Slam main draw, back in 1998 at Australian Open, while Nirupama Mankad played the 1971 Wimbledon mixed doubles with Anand Amritraj.


Shikha had competed in the 2004 US Open and reached the singles second round.


The braveheart, who played a key role in Indian Fed Cup team’s tremendous progress, said although singles hold a different significance, making the doubles too is special.


“It’s first main draw of a Grand Slam, so singles or doubles, I will take it. It’s special. Years of hard work, toil and now I am there. Not only my hard work but blessings and support of countless people have brought me here, I can’t forget that,” Ankita told PTI after her entry.

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