Away alone, Sumit Nagal tastes first title win of the season
Sumit Nagal began the year ranked 361 in the world. On Monday, he reached a career-high ATP ranking of 135. In the intervening nine months, the 22-year-old reached five ATP Challenger semi-finals, made his Grand Slam debut against Roger Federer at the US Open, entered another Challenger final and topped it all on Sunday with a Challenger title in Buenos Aires by beating local boy Facundo Bognis 6-4, 6-2. The Buenos Aires victory, the second Challenger title of his career, made him the first Indian to win a tournament on the South American clay-courts, helping him zoom 26 places in the rankings.
“Very happy and proud of myself,” Nagal said from Buenos Aires. “Coming so far alone and winning it has shown me what I am capable of. I think it was one of the best tournaments of my career.”
The keyword here is alone. Nagal might be touted as the next big thing in Indian tennis but he’s yet to find enough sponsors to afford a full-time coach by his side in tournaments. Not even a big-ticket battle with Federer, where he took a set off the legendary Swiss in the US Open first round, was enough for the youngster to attract support.
“I know but it’s something that I have no control over. Right now I am thankful to VKF (Virat Kohli Foundation) and Indian Oil who have been helping me to cover some of the cost. But I wish I had some extra support so that I could have my team with me for some extra weeks on the tour,” Nagal said.
While financial help has come only in a trickle, the duel with Federer — following wins in three qualifying matches in New York — has made Nagal believe that bigger things lie ahead.
“Definitely, that (Federer) match gave me a lot of confidence and showed me that I can compete at the big stage, and not only just in Challengers. I am very keen on improving and moving forward,” Nagal said.
“I think this is part of life. I have worked hard for it and I knew things will come to my side. If you look at it, I have improved since the beginning of the year. So, it was a matter of time. But, it does feel really good,” Nagal said.