It has been a great last few months for 20 year old Indian tennis prodigy, Sumit Nagal, first winning his maiden ATP Challenger title in Bangalore, and now qualifying for his first ATP Tour level main draw in Pune. Autocorrect suggests me to change Nagal to Nadal, but I’ll stick to Nagal, and wait for a time when autocorrect suggests for Nadal to be changed to Nagal.
Apart from the similarity in the names, there’s one more trait common to both – their fighting abilities. Nagal, much like Nadal, has that knack of finding a way out when things are not going his way.
Sample this – You are down 1-3 in a deciding set, and are facing two break points at 15-40, against a player ranked about a 100 spots above you. You’ve lost on all 3 occasions when you played him in the past(two of those matches being played at the very same venue). But you still manage to save those two break points, break your opponent in the very next game, and then break him again while he’d be serving to stay in the match.
Let me talk about the second break point that he saved at 1-3 down. A long rally, chips are down, with his opponent(Oh! I forgot to introduce him. Adrian Menendez Maceiras from Spain) dictating the rally. Sumit, with the help of his amazing foot speed, scrambles across from left to right, putting all the balls back, making Maceiras play that one extra ball. And suddenly, his “hawk-eyes” see an opportunity, a short ball, albeit on his lesser preferred backhand side. No prizes for guessing what happens next. Sumit pulls the trigger, and whips a clean backhand down the line winner, which has the packed Court 1 crowd in awe, including Maceiras.
And promptly, raised his game in the very next game, like champions do, to break Maceiras and bring the 3rd set on level terms. The set would go comfortably on serve until 4-4, where Maceiras had another opportunity to break at 30-40, but Sumit managed to hold on. Then at 5-4, Sumit called for a Medical Time Out for what he mentioned to be a “spasm” in his left leg. Maceiras cried foul, and claimed that it was unfair to take a MTO at this stage. But in his own words, Sumit rightly said “I was struggling. And I did nothing against the rules”. As luck would have it, Sumit broke Maceiras in the very next game, much to the delight of the partisan crowd, to make his way into a maiden ATP Main Draw. Expectedly, Maceiras stormed off the court in anger, while Sumit on the other hand was ecstatic, having made the Main Draw of an ATP event, with his friends along with his trainer/physio Yash Pandey in attendance.
In another match with Indian interest, southpaw Prajnesh Gunneswaran lost out to top seeded Brazilian Thiago Monteiro in straight sets.
Coming back to Nagal, he’ll face fellow qualifier Ilya Ivashka from Belarus in the 1st round on Tuesday, and continue on his journey to make Nagal a name good enough for Autocorrect to accept.
FINAL QUALIFYING ROUND RESULTS – (Indians in bold)
[Q2] (6) Sumit Nagal (IND,223) beat (2) Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (ESP,127) 6-2 3-6 6-4
[Q2] (8) Prajnesh Gunneswaran (IND,243) lost to (1) Thiago Monterio (BRA,124) 5-7 5-7
MAIN DRAW SINGLES –
[R1] (Q) Sumit Nagal(IND,223) vs (Q) Ilya Ivashka(BLR,230)
[R1] (WC) Ramkumar Ramanathan (IND,148) vs Roberto Carballes Baena (ESP,106)
[R1] Yuki Bhambri (IND,116) vs (WC) Arjun Kadhe (IND,603)