I've earned this one way more, says Sumit Nagal after Paris qualification | Tennis News - Hindustan Times
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I've earned this one way more, says Sumit Nagal after Paris qualification

ByRutvick Mehta
Jun 22, 2024 09:56 PM IST

The Olympics berth of India's top men's singles tennis player was made official on Saturday.

Top Indian singles pro Sumit Nagal's qualification for the Paris Olympics, made official on Saturday, takes his mind back to the first round of the ATP Heilbronn Challenger this month where he was a break down in the deciding set against Nikoloz Basilashvili.

Sumit Nagal will be the first Indian singles tennis player to feature in back-to-back Games(REUTERS)
Sumit Nagal will be the first Indian singles tennis player to feature in back-to-back Games(REUTERS)

As the last tournament before the rankings cut-off date for Paris qualification, Nagal knew what was riding on it.

“I knew I could only make the cut if I won the tournament," he said.

Which he eventually did. It sprung his world ranking from 95 to 77 on the June 10 cut-off date, landing the 26-year-old on the doorstep of his second Olympic appearance. Nagal’s status from being an alternate to one of the 64 singles spots for Paris was made official on Saturday — it was confirmed by the All India Tennis Association — after a few withdrawals.

Given his ranking rise after winning in Heilbronn, Nagal was quietly confident of getting to Paris anyway. And that big push at the low-key Challenger in Germany, a week after he made his French Open main draw debut in Paris, played a crucial part.

“I knew what the situation was (to make the cut for Paris), and to be able to play every match with that pressure, I am very proud that I could pull it off and was able to turn things around. I was a break down in the third set against Basilashvili, and to win the tournament from there meant a lot," Nagal said.

Nagal will be the first Indian singles tennis player to feature in back-to-back Games since Leander Paes, who won bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. In Tokyo, Nagal had become the first player from the country to win a singles match at the Games since Paes bagged the historic medal.

Nagal was however outside the top 100 three years ago, sneaking into the Tokyo singles draw only at the last moment after a sizeable chunk of top players had pulled out amid the pandemic. This Paris berth feels like a bigger deal for Nagal, currently at his career-high ranking of 71, in a season where he has taken down a seed at the Australian Open as a qualifier, broken into the top 100, beaten world No.38 Matteo Arnaldi at Monte Carlo Masters and won two Challenger titles.

“I feel like I have earned this one way more than Tokyo because that was last minute and around Covid. This is such a proud feeling, for me as well as my team," he said.

“The last 2-3 weeks have been very emotional and proud, because of the Olympics and the way things have been going on court. Playing matches day in day out — it’s a great, great time," said Nagal, who also made the final of the Perugia Challenger last weekend right after Heilbronn.

Nagal, more at home on clay – tennis at the Olympics will be played at Roland Garros – said he will play a couple of events on the surface post Wimbledon in the leadup to the Games. The Indian will return to Roland Garros hoping to add a lot more to his Olympics memories from Tokyo, where he went past the then Asian Games gold medallist Denis Istomin before going down to the top-ranked Daniil Medvedev in the second round.

“I don't see that (Tokyo) as a bad tournament for me," he said.

“But obviously, I'm a different player now, a better player. I'm more mature on court. So I hope to do well and try and win a medal for us.”

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