EXCLUSIVE: Sumit Nagal makes main draw for tennis men’s singles at Paris 2024

Sumit Nagal
Sumit Nagal (PC: X)

It’s official – Sumit Nagal has made it to the main draw of the men’s tennis singles at the Paris 2024 Olympics. To say that the wait was agonising for Nagal and all tennis fans would be stating the obvious. The cut-off for the Games was the day after the French Open ended, June 9. On that day, Nagal was ranked 77 in singles by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), which meant he would have to wait for withdrawals to get to know if he would get in, as the main draw for the Olympics is restricted to the top 64.

“It’s a great feeling to make another Olympics,” Nagal told RevSportz in an exclusive interaction. “It’s a very proud feeling. I know how hard I’ve worked the last few years. Returning from a surgery, not being able to play the tournaments I wanted.

“This is very different from Tokyo. That was very last-minute. Covid was going on. This one, I knew I would make it on the first cut. That means a lot to me. I’m very grateful to my sponsors for their support. I’ve always said I wish we had a system that supported young kids from when they’re eight or ten years old, and not wait till they’re 25-30. That would make a difference to tennis in India.”

“What had happened is clear,” explained Rohan Bopanna. “The ITF would have sent to various countries names based on rankings, who all had qualified, a day after the French Open. Some countries would have returned entries, so the final list was made on June 19. I would say that Sumit has slogged to get this far, and did the best possible thing by winning a big Challenger in Germany during the second week of the French Open.”

For the record, Bopanna had been ranked in the Top 10 on June 9 in doubles, and had picked Sriram Balaji as his partner.

On Friday, Nagal had posted on X (Twitter): “Extremely glad to share that I have officially qualified for the Paris Olympics. This is a monumental moment for me as the Olympics holds a special place in my heart. One of my career highlights so far was participating in the Tokyo Olympics.

“Ever since then, Paris has been a big goal for me. Can’t wait to put my best foot forward. My heartfelt gratitude to my sponsors and the Nensel Academy for their unwavering support over the years.”

He also thanked the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and TOPS (Target Olympic Podium Scheme) for their support.

Tennis fans and other players are pleased as punch that his efforts have borne fruit. “The sheer hard work Sumit has put in, and getting into the right mentality is what has made him such a solid player,” said Bopanna. “No words are enough to say he has slogged and got the right people on board, as coach and part of his strength and conditioning team. All this matters and we have seen the results. A singles player representing India in Paris is awesome.”

When Nagal was languishing minus sponsors last year, he was heartbroken. His flight to Hangzhou for the Asian Games saw a morose Nagal travel with other players. But then, once Gatorade came on board and Nagal could use Sacha Nensel as coach and Milos Galecic as trainer, he has become so focused. To play at the Australian Open in January, after qualifying, was big. He won a round and then decided the Challengers Circuit in India would be best for him to showcase his grit and get the results. When he broke into the Top 100 in February, it was a big moment.

Nagal was not satisfied. He ensured he would train harder and become an all-court player. Travel to the United States of America for outdoor hard events and coming back to Europe for clay events was a sign of him being ready to adapt and showcase his hunger. It needed presence of mind to jump from a Grand Slam first-round loss (Paris) to play a Challenger in Germany. It was like magic.

“It has been an amazing climb for Sumit Nagal in the last few months and a wonderful achievement to qualify for the Paris Olympics,” Sania Mirza told RevSportz. “Happily for him, Sumit gets the opportunity to play on clay, which is his favourite surface. I am looking forward to a stellar performance from him in Paris,.”

Indeed, after all the uncertainty and being bogged down by fitness issues two years ago, Nagal has risen like the proverbial Phoenix.