Bit of luck and play the tennis of his life: Devvarman on Sumit Nagal's improving his Aus Open feat in French Open | Tennis News - Hindustan Times
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Bit of luck and play the tennis of his life: Devvarman on Sumit Nagal's improving his Aus Open feat in French Open

ByAratrick Mondal
May 25, 2024 12:56 PM IST

Sumit Nagal has been handed a tough opening match at the Roland Garros, where he will be up against World No.18 Karen Khachanov

Sumit Nagal became a household name in January earlier this year, when he scripted history in the Australian Open. After battling through the qualifiers in Melbourne, Nagal stunned Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik to become the first Indian man to win a main draw match at the Australian Open in 11 years, thus pocketing $180,000 Australian dollars in the process. Adding to the glory, Nagal's triumph also broke a 35-year-old record, making him the first Indian man to defeat a seeded player in the singles draw of a grand slam. This rare feat was a testament to his skill and determination, leaving the country in absolute awe of his achievement.

India's Sumit Nagal reacts after a point as he plays against Denmark's Holger Rune during their Monte Carlo ATP Masters Series Tournament(AFP)
India's Sumit Nagal reacts after a point as he plays against Denmark's Holger Rune during their Monte Carlo ATP Masters Series Tournament(AFP)

Nagal has since been almost a regular in main draw matches in top ATP tournaments, with his best show on clay at the Monte Carlo Masters, where he made it past the qualifiers to beat Matteo Arnaldi in the round of 64 and took a set off world No. 7 Holger Rune in the next tie before succumbing to a heartbreaking loss. The run not only saw him rise to a career-best ranking of No. 80 but also sealed his direct entry to the main draw at the French Open.

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Come May 26, the 26-year-old is all set to become the first Indian man to feature in the main draw at the Stade Roland Garros since Prajnesh Gunneswaran in 2019. Does the expectation rise amid the experience gained over the last few months since his Australian Open feat?

"At this point, Sumit's been around the tour for long enough, I think in terms of expectations, dealing with them, a lot of the, you know, whatever, whatever's happening off court, I think at this point, he's 26 years old, been around for long enough, been now in the top hundred. Had a few wins, had a few runs, done well at the Masters, you know, played against top ten guys. I think that he should be as feeling as about as good as he has. He's in the prime of his career. Physically playing his game was as good as it's ever been," said former India No. 1 Somdev Devvarman in responding to a query from Hindustan Times.

Nagal has been handed a tough opening match at the Roland Garros, where he will be up against World No.18 Karen Khachanov. Although Devvarman, who has closely worked with the youngster and remains his staunch supporter, reckons the Khachanov tie as "one of the toughest matches", he remained optimistic of Nagal's chances.

"Let's be honest, it's a huge challenge. Karen Khachanov is one of the toughest matches out there, and the two-time quarterfinalist at other majors as well. And, over the last four or five years, he's always been one of those very consistent performers. He loves taking the ball early, loves dictating play from the baseline. Both sides have no big weaknesses, huge serve, great competitor. It's a really tough match. But I'd like to see a fight. I think Sumit has it in him. There's a lot of tougher drawers out there, and I think, you know, if Sumit plays well, really well, he'll give himself a chance," he told the website.

"He's got a tough draw in Khachanov, but it's not an unwinnable match. If he finds a way to beat somebody like a Khachanov, then he's got a qualifier or Marcus Giron. Again, that's a winnable match. You know, whoever it is, he'll go into that. So is it possible for him, for us to see it, this tournament? Yeah, it is. But he'd have to play the tennis of his life," he added/

Following the clay-court season, Nagal has also guaranteed himself a main-draw appearance at the prestigious Wimbledon Championships. He will become the first Indian man to feature in the singles event in five years, with Prajnesh Gunneswaran being the last player to achieve the feat.

However, Devvarman, who made two main-draw appearances in his career at the SW19, feels that Nagal still has time before it can start regularly winning main-draw matches. The veteran tennis star added that with a bit of luck and consistent show over the next few years, Nagal could crack the code eventually.

"It'll take a little bit of time. So the thing is, when you're in the main draw of all of these majors and you're unseeded, sometimes you require a little bit of luck," her said. We've seen that in the past with many players. The best example is this year with Nadal, unseeded. He's the greatest ever player on clay, and here at Roland Garros, prayer, he's got one of the toughest first rounds. Sumit is in that situation now where he's playing high-level tennis, beating top-quality players and playing against and, you know, battling against top-quality players quite often.

“I think when you're in that situation, when you're at that ranking, and you don't know who you could play in the first few rounds, you depend a little bit on luck. But over the course of your career, over, let's say, if he gets 20 main draws or 25, that would be a good place to begin. That's about four or five years. And if he gets that, then gives themselves chances, you know, plays well at one event, who knows what happens? One seed loses, somebody pulls out, and there you go. You have an opportunity to kind of make it, but you have to kind of make your own luck a little bit at this point.”

[Watch Roland Garros 2024 from 26th May 2024, 2:30 PM IST onwards, LIVE on Sony Sports Ten 5 SD & HD, Sony Sports Ten 2 SD & HD, Sony Sports Ten 3 SD & HD (Hindi), Sony Sports Ten 4 SD & HD (Tamil & Telugu).]

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