Proud of Nagal but he needs to be consistent, says Leander Paes

As the Tennis Premier League returns soon, Leander Paes hopes India's young blood benefits from the opportunity of playing with the veterans.

While lauding Sumit Nagal's exploits in New York, Leander Paes advised the young player to focus on staying consistent.   -  Getty Images

When young Sumit Nagal took on Swiss tennis legend, Roger Federer, in the first round of the US Open last month, not many expected him to take the fight to the 20-time Grand Slam winner.

The 21-year-old claimed the first set, becoming the first Indian to do so in the process, but a strong comeback by Federer saw the veteran take the game with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 win.

While his skill may have earned praise from Federer himself, Indian tennis icon Leander Paes believes that a larger challenge lies ahead for the Haryana boy - the struggles of consistency.


“To qualify for US Open is fantastic, I have been there myself, to see him do that and to see him play Roger Federer on the main court is a very daunting task and I thought he handled himself very well. Also, to see Sumit come into the Davis Cup team, seeing him play on the pro tour in Challenger where he recently did well. That kind of consistent performance is what he needs,” Leander said during an interaction on Friday.

Having seen Nagal from close quarters, the 46-year-old also believes that it is important for young guns to keep raising the bar.

“If you see his contemporaries like Ramkumar Ramanathan, he had a great run in Newport (Hall of Fame Classic grass court tournament) last year when he got into the final and should have won the final but lost to Steve Johnson. Ram has had some good results in challengers, had some decent results in 250s, he did really well in Maharashtra Open where he played against Marin Cilic. Likewise you see Prajnesh (Gunneswaran), a tall lefty with a big serve, he’s also developing well and had some really good results. For all these boys, the consistency of their performance is really the call of the day. They are very talented and work hard,” Leander said.

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Talking from experience, courtesy a professional career that's now touching the three-decade mark, Leander says that a lot of things go on in players' mind when they are on court.

“The real difference between the top 10 and 100 in the world is the physical and mental attributes. Everybody can hit a serve decently well, everybody can hit a forehand and backhand well but the difference is the confidence in winning, physically and mentally - it is a big difference,” Leander said.

The tennis icon will be seen in action during the second edition of the Tennis Premier League which will be held in the city from December 12-16.

While Zeeshan Ali, Nanadan Bal and Aditya Sachdev will mentor various teams, top Indian players like Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, Saketh Myneni, Purav Raja, Vishnu Vardhan, Ankita Raina, Pranjala Yadlapalli, Rutujua Bhosale and Riya Bhatia will feature for various franchises.

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Paes sees value in bringing young and experiences players together in a tournament of this nature.

"In tennis, it’s very important to have youngsters coming to play with national stars. This year, I am very happy to have the Davis Cup players - professional players of the country, and India's top seeded women's player coming to play in the league."

Leander, who co-owns the Mumbai franchise, said. “Last year, one of my main concerns was to get the youngsters to play against the national top players who are playing across the world. Hopefully in coming year, we will have international players participating in the league as well.”

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