How special would it be if you would win the first ever set of your first ever Grand Slam? And what if the victory comes against arguably the best tennis player the world has ever seen? Quite dreamy right? Well, one of India’s rising tennis stars, Sumit Nagal, has lived that exact dream. The 22-year old Haryana youngster managed to win his first set against the Swiss legend Roger Federer at the US Open before going down in the following sets.
Tennis in India has seen several ups and downs in its history. Of course, Leander Paes will always be remembered as the legend of the game with the Olympic medal in 1996, numerous Grand Slam titles and the fact that he is still going strong at the age of 46. But along with the veteran, Mahesh Bhupati, Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna are the only other players to have bagged the elusive Grand Slam title.
However, this might all be about to change in the next few years as Sumit Nagal is quickly rising through the ranks. Here’s everything you should know about the new Indian tennis star…
Date of Birth
16 August 1997
Jhajjar, Haryana/ Residence: New Delhi
Sumit Nagal Biography
Sumit was born on 16th August 1997 in Jaitpur village in Haryana. With his father being a teacher and mother a housewife, young Sumit did not really have a sports background. But you don’t need an invitation for Cricket in India. And just like every other kid, Cricket was Sumit’s favourite sport.
But Sumit’s father, Suresh Nagal, did not want his son to be part of the crowd, he wanted his kid to stand out. And with that in mind, he took Sumit to a local sports club where he first watched and played Tennis – all at the age of eight!
Sumit’s love for Tennis finally put Cricket behind, and the eight-year-old started practising daily. And just two years later, a perfect moment arrived for him in the form of Mahesh Bhupati’s ‘Mission 2018’ tryouts – an initiative to produce India’s ever first Grand Slam singles champion by 2018.
Sumit asked the legendary Indian one simple question – “Mr Bhupathi, can you please look at my game?” And that is where the story picked up the pace! Sumit was one of the only three youngsters selected from thousands of players and moved to Bangalore for the program and continued training under Bhupati.
Sumit moved to Toronto, Canada in 2010 where the Canadian coach, Bobby Mahal took him under the wings. The youngster continued to receive support from Mahesh Bhupati despite being in Canada. In 2014, Sumit got into Schuettler Waske Tennis-University in Germany where Argentine Mariano Delfino coached him.
Haryana to New Delhi to Bangalore to Toronto to Offenbach, Germany is a long and hectic road to travel. But Sumit Nagal was ready to do it all just for the love and passion for Tennis. And despite his constant shifting and changes in coaches, one thing that remained constant was Sumit’s hard work.
It all finally bore fruits in 2015 where Sumit won the Boys’ Doubles title at the Wimbledon. He became the first ever Indian to win the junior title after Sania Mirza’s Girls’ Double title at the Wimbledon in 2003.
Sumit partnered with Lý Hoàng Nam of Vietnam as the pair was seeded 8th for the Championship. The duo defeated fourth seed, Reilly Opelka (USA) and Akira Santillan (Japan) 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 in the final.
Controversy and Comeback
In early 2017, Sumit was dropped from India’s Davis Cup squad for the tie against New Zealand. The youngster’s indiscipline apparently cost him the place. But Somdev Devvarman, former Indian player defended Sumit saying he was dropped due to his fitness and not disciple issues.
Regardless, Sumit Nagal grabbed the headlines before the end of 2017 once again – this time for all the right reasons. The youngster won the men’s singles title at the 2017 Bengaluru Open, part of ATP Challengers Tour. Sumit defeated Britain’s Jay Clarke 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in the final, winning his first ATP title in the process.
‘He’s Going to Have a Very Solid Career’
Coming off the title in ATP Tour, a lot was expected from Sumit in 2018. But the youngster failed to progress past the first round of qualifying in both French Open and Wimbledon. Struggling with injuries and 306th on the World rankings, 2018 was a year to forget for Sumit.
But just a year later, Sumit has made yet another strong comeback and has qualified for his first-ever Grand Slam. Sumit defeated Tatsuma Ito of Japan in the first round and Peter Polansky of Canada in the 2nd round of qualifying in straight sets.
But in the final qualifying round for the 2019 US Open, the Indian was set and 0-3 down against Brazilian João Menezes. Just three points away from yet another elimination. Three points away from the dream of playing the Grand Slam being snatched away once again. Sumit though was not the one to give up. He completed a stunning comeback to win the game 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 and qualify for the US Open.
After his epic first round contest in the competition against Roger Federer that ended in 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, the Swiss great praised Nagal for showing the grit to win.
“Never easy to come out and play your best. Even though it’s kind of what you live for, you dream about, playing on the big stage. So I think he did that very well,” he said.
“He knows what he can bring. That’s why I think he’s going to have a very solid career.”
Playing Style of Sumit Nagal
Ranked 190th in the world at the moment, Sumit is a strong baseline player. Forehand is his biggest strength with slices and drop shots also in his arsenal. The 22-year old is also has a great net game to complement his baseline forehands. Sumit’s two-handed backhand is still a work in progress due to lack of power. And just like his service, needs a little work to be done.
Family: Sumit Nagal
Sumit knows his father has played a huge role in his career. And he always keeps that in mind and has said that he plays for his family. He desires to make a name for himself and India in Tennis. The youngster says he wants to erase the reputation that India is only good in Cricket.
Nagal trains at the Nensel Academy in Germany and academy’s club director Sascha Nensel is his head coach. Clay is Sumit Nagal’s favourite surface.
Still only 22, Nagal has a great career ahead of himself and will be the star to watch out for in the upcoming years. He might not reach the heights like his ‘almost-namesake’ Nadal (Well who can?) but he is India’s next big thing in Tennis for sure!