There are about 20-30 people on Court 1 at the Balewadi Stadium, to see the country’s new 20 year old tennis sensation, doing battle in his first match at the ATP Main Draw level. And there’s Mahesh Bhupathi in attendance too, who’s driven down from Bombay to analyse and witness his protege’s rapid progress in the last few months.
One could argue that Sumit’s match should have been on centre court, with myself being the first one to argue for it. Especially after a houseful crowd graced his final qualifying match. But we have to eat what we’ve been served on our plate, haven’t we?
Moving on, on the other side of the net is a 23 year old 6’4 giant from Belarus, Ilya Ivashka, who’s also qualified into the main draw like Sumit. Don’t be fooled by his modest rank of 230 on the ATP tour, this guy has got serious game.
If the first point of the match was anything to go by, we would have been in for a long afternoon. Ivashka sent down a thunderous 1st serve, staying true to the reputation of 6’4 tall tennis players, initiating a rally that would literally go on forever. Sumit, brought out his inner Somdev in the point. Actually, the running around and scampering that Sumit does on the court, does remind one a bit about Somdev. But the only difference in his game is that he seems to know how to transition from being on the defence to attacking in a point. He’s got a much bigger and lethal forehand than Somdev, and a marginally better serve as well.
Coming back to the match, Sumit had difficulty throughout the match, in coping with Ivashka’s huge game. Ivashka used his height pretty well, taking the ball very early, putting Sumit on the backfoot very early in the points. Sumit played his heart out, but there’s only so much one can do while being on the defence.
To his credit, he tried to change things up by trying to take the ball on his more preferred forehand side on occasions, and also trying to come to the net a few times. But none of it seemed to work on the day for a considerable period, the major reason behind it being his forehand not working today. Usually it’s the forehand that sets up points for Sumit, but it was absent today. He made a lot of uncharacteristic errors on that flank, giving a lot of free points to Ivashka.
Nevertheless, it’s been an impressive last few months for the 20 year old lad from Jhajjar, and he’ll surely learn from the experience of playing in his first ATP World Tour Main Draw event. This loss is going to stand in him good stead for the upcoming season. Best wishes!
ATP 250 TATA OPEN MAHARASHTRA
(R1) Sumit Nagal(IND,223) lost to Ilya Ivashka(BLR,230) 3-6 3-6