Sumit Nagal had a lot of firsts this week – first ATP win, first ATP QF, first Top 25 win. Grinding through three tough matches in the qualifying in the sultry Buenos Aires conditions, he swept past former world number 28 Joao Sousa 6-0 6-2 in the 1st round, before beating ATP #22 Cristian Garin in Round 2
He came tantalisingly close to a SF berth after losing 5-7 in the third set to ATP #46 and Spanish veteran Albert Ramos Vinolas. Sumit shares his thoughts after his QF match –
Q) What was your objective of playing in South America. Do you think you achieved it?
The goal was to play as many matches as possible. If you look at the last four months, I have not played many matches. I was injured for a bit, then I went to Australia and we had to do two weeks of quarantine. And then unfortunately, I had two first round losses in Melbourne
I was lacking a bit of match practice and the goal was to come to clay, a surface that I enjoy playing on. So I am happy, not because I made the quarters or something like that, but because I got to play good, high quality matches
Q) You put in a lot of effort in the 5-5 game on Vinolas’ serve where you were unable to break. Do you think that contributed to you missing the lines & getting broken on your serve at 6-5?
I don’t think any player in the world is good enough to hit lines whenever they want (laughs). Sometimes it happens, and sometimes it does not!
Towards the end, I knew how much energy I had, so I had to take a few more chances. At 5-5, I think it was the correct play to expend the amount of energy I did. I earned a break point, but he aced me on the break point and then played two solid points thereafter. If that game had gone in my favor, serving at 5-6 vs serving at 6-5 is a whole different ball game
Q) What are your takeaways from this match? Do you focus on the fact that you came back from 5-2 to 5-5, or do you focus on the fact that you were one point away from serving for the match?
While speaking to my coach after the match, I told him “If that 5-5 30-40 had gone in my favor, things could have been different”. But he told me – “But you were also lucky to come back from 5-2 down to make it 5-5”
So it works both ways in Tennis. That’s the beauty of sport as things can change very quickly!
Q) You played 6 matches at a stretch after a long period of time, like you said. How does the body feel after this week?
Definitely fatigued. The conditions are also very slow here, so you don’t get any free points on your serve & you are literally playing every point. I don’t remember the last time I played 6 matches in 6 days. So I need to get used to it. But the season has just started for me on clay, so I need to take it week by week and keep working on things!
Q) You got your first ATP win & first Top 25 win this week. What would it take for you to keep doing this consistently?
I think to play a lot of matches on the ATP 250 or 500 or even higher levels would be my goal. I’ll have to play qualies in most of them right now. It’s tough to say, cause all conditions are different. If I have to tell you from the point of view of my game, I would just say that I need to keep enjoying playing. I had fun playing so many matches this week after so long and I would like to keep it this way!
Q) Your forehand is really big. How much are you working on that backhand to support the forehand?
There’s a lot of work going in on both the strokes, to be honest. I made a lot of errors on the forehand side today, so many mistakes. I wouldn’t say that my forehand is so good that I do not need to work on it at all. I am working on my forehand, backhand, serve – everything. It’s a lot! There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes!
Q) There is a Futures tournament happening in India this week(Lucknow). What would your message be to those young players?
I always say the same thing. If you get a chance to compete, just take it. You don’t get to play matches everyday. Your end goal is to become a good tennis player, and to become a good tennis player, you need to be on the court and enjoy being on the court, enjoy the process. If you are not enjoying, everything gets tough!
Q) What were you thinking at the end of the second set. You went for a toilet break!
Thoughts were to give it my all in the third set. I knew he was not going to hand it to me and that I have to fight for it. At the same time, I knew how much energy I had. My goal was to play as aggressive as possible
Q) How tough it is travelling during the pandemic? Different countries, different rules!
There is fear. Even if you are taking 100% precautions, you can’t guarantee that you are 100% safe. Also, to travel to Argentina from Australia – it took me five days to get here and it was the fastest way to get here. So it’s not easy to travel right now. There is one flight in one days or worse. I hope things get better soon!
Q) You have been vocal about expenses on the tour. You played a Slam main draw and now a deep run in an ATP event. How does that set you up for the rest of the year from a financial perspective?
The year is long. It’s just March first week now(laughs)
But if I keep performing well, then I should be in a good position. I’ll be based in Europe as there will be many tournaments in and around there. So travelling expenses will go down. Let’s see how it goes!
Q) Does a tournament like this give you confidence? Does it give you more confidence than a Grand Slam debut or a Grand Slam win?
For sure. Every tennis players wants to play(and win) a lot of matches. If you remember the Australian Open, one of my friends, Aslan(Karatsev), made the semis. He has played around 35-40 matches in the last 5-6 years, which gave him a lot of confidence. If you have confidence, you become a very dangerous player. So I definitely feel more confident than I felt 7 days ago. So I am really looking forward to my next tournaments and to taking the confidence from this week
Q) In India, the tennis tradition is rich. What is the situation of Tennis in India?
A lot of people are playing tennis – it is probably the 3rd or 4th most played sport in India. But the level is not great right now, as we are missing on a structure/system in our country. Once that is in place, we will hopefully have better singles players coming up