By Vatsal Tolasaria – 30th September, 2019
In the last few months, Sumit Nagal has managed to enter a lot of unchartered territories in Indian Tennis. After becoming the first Indian to take a set off Roger Federer at the US Open, Sumit has lifted the ATP Buenos Aires Challenger title to become the first Indian to triumph on South American clay.
“It was a grind. I came here alone. I couldn’t have my coach(Sascha Nensel) and trainer(Milos Galecic) travelling with me, as it’s tough to travel with a coach all the time, as it costs a lot,” said Nagal.
“The first match I played was 3 hours long and I had to get an IV(a test used to correct dehydration) after the match. From there, to be holding the trophy now, I am really proud of myself and the way I pulled through”, said Nagal after the finals, where he beat local favorite Facundo Bagnis, 6-4 6-2.
To put things into perspective, the 48-player draw at the event had 43 South Americans, 4 Europeans, and Sumit himself, participating. Indians are traditionally known to be better on faster surfaces, but Sumit is a trailblazer.
“I just went match by match. I know South Americans are good on clay, but so am I. I am very much confident playing on this surface and have had some positive results this year on clay,” quipped Sumit.
But the grind doesn’t stop here for Nagal. He will be ranked around 135 in the latest ATP Rankings, and is determined to crack the Top 100 before the season ends.
“I win today, and tomorrow is the next week. I fly to Brazil tomorrow for another Challenger event. So I won’t have much time to celebrate this victory today. But that’s how life on the Tour is. I need to keep working hard, keep focusing on the right things, and keep on improving,” said Nagal, when asked about what his schedule looks like from now on.
Sumit was also very grateful for the support he received from the Indian community in Buenos Aires, especially from the Ambassador of India – Argentina, Shri Dinesh Bhatia, and a bunch of Indians who turned up to cheer him on during his matches.
From playing Roger Federer at the world’s biggest Tennis stadium in Arthur Ashe, to travelling to obscure locations with no one watching, requires a huge mental turnaround. And it’s one that Sumit is not shying away from.
“The transition was tough, of course. My Instagram blew up after I played Roger(Federer). I gained some 15K followers and likes were dropping so fast,” giggles Sumit.
“My goal is to play all the Grand Slams next year and do well in them. I want to be playing in all the ATP Masters 1000 events, 500 events, and so on,” says a very focused Sumit.
With the kind of resilience he has shown, the dream is not too far-fetched for this young lad from Jhajjar.