Sumit Nagal outhit Italian Luca Nardi 6-4, 6-1 to win the ATP Challenger on Sunday in Chennai. When the new ranking comes out on Monday, Nagal will be inside the Top 100 for the first time. The projected ranking is 98.
This has been a brilliant last few months for Nagal. After he was not given a wild card at the Australian Open, Nagal went through the wringer of the qualifiers and won three rounds. And when he won a round in the main draw in Melbourne, it was sensational.
To shift down from the big events to a series of Challengers calls for a change in mindset. The kind of tennis Nagal played in the last two days was hot and sensational. His stroke production from the baseline on the hard courts bordered on the sublime.
Nagal, who had slipped outside the top 500 at one point last year, now has Somdev Devvarman on his coaching staff. Somdev is a shrewd player with coaching skills and was watching Nagal shape up well. As a commentator, Somdev follows modern tennis well and knows what conditions in Chennai are like.
There are two more back-to-back Challengers in Bengaluru and New Delhi in the coming two weeks. Nagal seemed in some trouble on Saturday in the semi-final as he called for the ATP trainer and sought a medical timeout.
Yet, on Sunday, he was in the zone, churning out good shots on either flank with pace and precision. His range of strokes made him look tough and unyielding.
Given the lack of singles results from Indians, Nagal’s latest burst is inspirational. Before this, Vijay Amritraj, Ramesh Krishnan, Leander Paes, Somdev and Yuki Bhambri were in the Top 100.
If Nagal can continue to stay focussed and maintain a ranking within the Top 100, it will help him make the cut for the Paris Olympics. However, it’s more important that he stays fit and injury-free.
The coming two weeks are important for Nagal, who till October was starved of funds and at break point. Literally.