The ever-improving Nagal continues his surge in the tennis landscape

Sumit Nagal
Sumit Nagal (Source: X)

Six years ago, Sumit Nagal collected a mere two games in a Wimbledon Qualifiers match against K Majchrzak. After a thorough Google search, you might end up getting just the scoreline of the aforementioned match. There is no highlights package or relevant stats related to it. After all, it was a contest between two relatively unknown players, slugging it out in a qualifier.

When the same Nagal, now ranked 71, took on M Kecmanovic, in the first round of the 2024 Wimbledon Championships, there was a bit of buzz surrounding the match. Indian tennis fans had the chance to watch the match live via TV. On various social media platforms, too, enough fans were also keeping tabs on Nagal’s progress. Although Nagal went on to lose the encounter in four sets, there is no doubt that the gritty right-hander has ramped up the profile of tennis in the country.

So, how did Nagal go about playing Kecmanovic in the first round? For starters, Nagal is more of a clay-court specialist. In that context,  it was always going to be tough for Nagal to find his footing on grass. It was quite evident that Kecmanovic’s deep returns troubled Nagal. It could also be observed that when Kecmanovic employed the slice, Nagal grappled with low-bouncing tennis ball on grass. To his credit, Nagal did play a fine second set, where he used his counter-punching skills to wrest back the initiative. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough as Kecmanovic won the next two sets to seal the match.

The narrative surrounding Nagal is a lot more than just gaining direct entry into Wimbledon Championships. From just having 900 Euros in the bank and ranked as low as 506 in February last year, Nagal has showcased unremitting willpower to establish himself in the top 100 in ATP rankings. 

This year, Nagal  pipped the 31st seed Alexander Bublik at the Australian Open, becoming the first Indian to usurp a seeded player in the singles main draw of a Major since Ramesh Krishnan in ’89. In February 2024, he became only the 9th Indian to find a slot in the top-100 in singles rankings. Subsequently, he progressed to the main event of the BNP Paribas Open as a lucky loser. 

Nagal also qualified for the Monte Carlo Masters. With it, he became the first Indian singles player in 42 years to make it to aforesaid tournament’s main draw. His endeavour didn’t stop there, as he defeated a higher-ranked player in Matteo Arnaldi. After securing his maiden Masters win, he even took a set off the highly rated Holger Rune. He also found a place in the main draw of the French Open and was in prolific form in the Challengers. Not just that, Nagal also secured a berth for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Nagal is still just 26. If he keeps improving by fractions and percentages, even a spot in the top-50 rankings is very much possible. Even if he doesn’t make it that far, Nagal’s noteworthy performances would act as a flicker of hope for upcoming singles players in the country to dream big.