Sumit Nagal put up a spirited fight against the world number 53 Filip Krajinovic. He had his chances, and was probably the favorite to come out on top in the 3rd set, but a few a close line calls and one moment of lapse in concentration were enough to take the Serb home.
He may not have got the win, but Nagal has started the 2023 season on a good note and will take confidence from this match into the rest of the season, as he looks to make yet another comeback after an injury.
Nagal shared his thoughts on the match and the rest of the season –
Q) It was a great performance today. Can you sum it up?
SN – Definitely some good thoughts about it. I think it was a pretty high quality match. Obviously, errors will happen on big points, especially because it was the first match of the year for both of us. There were many close calls, especially in the 3rd set, on break points. But if I can continue to play matches like these, I think I will be on a good path.
Q) Can you talk about how you turned it around in the 2nd set?
SN – I don’t know if you can call it “turned it around”. Because if you look at it, I got broken in the very first game of the match. I was sloppy on 30-30, coming in with a little nerves. But after that, it was a pretty similar level match – he was holding, I was holding. He was serving at 4-5 to stay in the 2nd set, so he’s under pressure. So I wouldn’t call it turned it around. I would say I took my chances and it worked for him.
In the third set, I would say I had more chances than he did. But he’s an experienced player and I feel he played the big points better than I did.
Q) When you go for the next tournament, how will this match affect you?
SN – It’s all about confidence. If you don’t know, this guy (Krajinovic) has had very good wins in his career. He’s beaten Djokovic too. So it’s matches like these will help me. Tennis is a sport about confidence. If you are confident, it doesn’t matter who is on the other side of the net. One or two good weeks can change your career.
A case in point being a good friend Aslan (Karatsev), who qualified and made semis at the Australian Open two years back. He had an amazing year. It’s just because of confidence. He figured out how to win matches like these and then “BOOM”. I am hoping that I take confidence from it, keep the good practices up, and play all tournaments with the same focus and intensity.
Q) Can you talk about the selection of shot on a crucial point in the 3rd set? You played a drop shot and missed.
SN – It all happens really fast. I saw him very far behind the baseline and thought this was my chance as I had a lot of court open. So the shot selection was fine. Unfortunately the ball didn’t go to the other side of the net, and it cost me a lost. It was a very big point and a big risk shot that didn’t work out in my favor. But you get less than half a second in your head to decide, so it is what it is.
Q) You’ve had a few fitness issues in the past. Playing such an intense 2.5 hour match, how do you feel?
SN – Like I said, if I can play matches like these I’d be very happy. Like you said – 3 sets, 2.5 hours, high level. You not only get better fitness-wise, but also you learn how to stay calm the longer the match goes, and your shot selection gets better because you’ve been in these situations before.
I mean I don’t want to play 3 set matches (laughs), but if I can play high level and long matches and stay fit, I’d be happy.
Q) You mentioned that you’ve been working on your serve. How happy are you with the way it came out today?
SN – 4-4, 30-30 I am not happy (laughs). But last year I was really struggling with my serve, I had bad rhythm. I wasn’t feeling it and worked really hard to figure it out. So at the end of November, we decided to change the stance. It’s been just one month, so it’s too early to decide. But I feel good about it. I’ve got positive feedback from coaches and friends. So let’s see how it goes.
Q) Barring Davis Cup, Indian players don’t get much of a chance to play at home. We hear chants of “Sachin, Sachin”, but today we heard “Sumit, Sumit”. How important is crowd support?
SN – I think home tournaments are very important. In one way, we’re lucky we have one ATP tournament. But in another way it’s sad that we don’t have too many tournaments at home. Look at America, France, Italy. There’s a guy who’s Top 100 without playing outside America. And we had 4 tournaments in the last 3 years. So you can see how much it helps when you are playing in front of your people, your friends are around, you are eating your food and your family is there. It makes a big difference.
Q) Being named as reserve for the Denmark tie, how happy are you?
SN – Very happy (laughs sarcastically). I don’t know. Let’s see how the next few weeks go.
Q) Did you have any pressure of the wildcard entry here?
SN – No. Even today Mr. Prashant Sutar and Mr. Sunder Iyer came to me before the match and asked me to go enjoy and not feel any pressure. But obviously, any player who steps on the court wants to win. Even I really wanted to win, it would have been nice. But it’s Tennis and it changes really quickly.
Q) Can you talk about your temperament? You’ve had issues in the past but you seem to have calmed down recently
SN – For sure. I would say it’s an aspect I’ve struggled with in the past. It’s my weak side. I used to be very up and down in matches. It was the most difficult side for me. I mean you can fix your forehand, backhand, serve, etc. But to control the mind is the toughest challenge. I am taking help from an American lady who’s helping me with this aspect.