Paris looms large for Sumit Nagal, even as Rohan Bopanna seals Olympics spot

Sumit Nagal
Sumit Nagal (Source: SAI Media)

Sumit Nagal touched a fantastic career-high singles ranking of 77 on the ATP computer on Monday, and the timing couldn’t have been better. After he lost in the first round of the French Open in Paris, Nagal and his think-tank wasted no time in deciding making a last-minute dash to the Heilbronn Neckarcup 2024 Challenger in Germany. The results were there for all to see as the Indian star won the final on Sunday.

For sheer presence of mind and effort, this was a great move. Agreed, as per the selection criteria drawn up by the ITF (International Tennis Federation), Nagal may still not have made the main draw for the Olympics. Monday was the cut-off day with regard to rankings. A ranking of 77 does not guarantee Nagal a place in the main draw at the Olympics. There are 64 spots up for grabs and as per the criteria set by the ITF, a maximum of  “four per country” can represent a nation in Paris. If that is the yardstick, Nagal can be hopeful of being part of the final list in July.  

Speaking to RevSportz on Tuesday, Rohan Bopanna, who finished in the Top 10 in doubles on Monday after the French Open, spoke of how well Nagal had done. “This has been a standout year for Sumit,” said Bopanna, who is ranked No. 4 in doubles. “I think the decision to make a dash to Germany was a great one. I am very hopeful the ITF will look at how much Sumit has slogged in 2024 and produced results, be it at the Challengers or even trying his best at the Grand Slams.”

For the record, Nagal won his sixth career Challenger title, and the second in India, this year. After the highs of the Australian Open in Melbourne, where he had to qualify for the main draw and then won a round, he had no problem in shifting to lower-tier events in the tennis structure decided by the ATP. He played a sequence of Challengers in February in Chennai, Bengaluru, Pune and New Delhi, before moving to the US for the outdoor hard-court circuit.

From there, he shifted to clay. Nagal had represented India at the Tokyo Olympics, a slot which had originally gone to Yuki Bhambri. However, as Bhambri was not fit at the time, Nagal got into draw in Tokyo, when the games were held during the Covid-19 pandemic. This time, by sheer dint of hard work, there is reason to believe Nagal will eventually make the draw in Paris.

Sumit Nagal
Sumit Nagal (Image: Sumit Nagal X)

The ITF writes to the countries who come under their umbrella and have fulfilled the selection criteria, which includes a player having good relations with his/her country and having represented the nation in the Davis Cup or the Fed Cup. Nagal did not play in the away tie against Pakistan at the start of the year as he felt grass was not his surface. Yet, he is on good terms with the All India Tennis Association (AITA).

Meanwhile,  the AITA should also finalise before Wednesday who will partner Bopanna in the doubles draw for Paris 2024. Bopanna is at No. 4 in the doubles world rankings, with 7930 points. His playing partner, Matt Ebden, is perched at No.1.

“I am absolutely thrilled with this ranking and I get to choose my partner,” Bopanna told RevSportz. He had written to the AITA almost a fortnight ago, saying he wanted to partner Sriram Balaji at Paris 2024. The decision was made after weighing up the pros and cons, since so many Indian players compete on the doubles circuit these days. Balaji is ranked 67th.  

“I had told RevSportz earlier as well that my choice to pick a partner will be based on results through 2024 till the cut-off, and who all are fit,” said Bopanna. “I am now waiting to hear from the AITA, since I have mailed them.”

It is believed that as far back as February 2024, Bopanna had hinted to the AITA who could be his possible doubles partners for Paris. “I had to see the results over the last few months and I, myself, had to ensure I am fit fully,” said Bopanna. “For those asking me on fitness, I am working hard and at Level 44.”

Having been denied a chance to represent India at the Tokyo Olympics three years ago, Bopanna is excited about Paris 2024. “It is going to be an amazing Olympics for all the Indian athletes and me,” he said. All eyes are now on the AITA selection committee, not that they have to think too hard. This is an open-and-shut case.

For All Sports Updates, Follow RevSportz