Struggling Sumit Nagal shrugs off lacklustre year

India’s Sumit Nagal was knocked out in the first round of 16 out of 24 tournaments in the last 12 months. He is, however, optimistic about a quick turnaround.

Poor form: Sumit Nagal is likely to drop to 485 in the world rankings.   -  R. Ragu

This week, last year, Sumit Nagal savoured the week of his tennis life by winning his maiden Challenger singles title in Bengaluru. His ranking had zoomed up from 321 to 225. The Jhajjar-born player, handpicked by Mahesh Bhupathi for support, had hoped to build on this success but an experiment with his support staff, and injuries, proved costly.

In the last 12 months, he played 24 tournaments. He was knocked out in the first round in 16 of them; most recently, he lost to top seed Radu Albot to bow out of the Pune Challenger. When the new rankings are issued on Monday, he is likely to be positioned 485 after losing 100 points.

‘Normal’

But Nagal is not losing sleep. “In tennis, it is normal to have a year when you do not perform as you are expected to. It will just take a month or two to get back. I think I am good enough [not to be in the] 400s for a long time,” Nagal told PTI.

After the Bengaluru Open success, Nagal had changed his base to Javea (close to Valencia) in Spain, where he worked with Javier, the brother of David Ferrer, the distinguished tennis player. This was because his favourite people at Waske Academy — Mariano and Yakub — were not there anymore.

Shining glory: Sumit Nagal won his maiden ATP Challenger title in Bengaluru last year. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

 

The shift, Nagal revealed, upset his training style, and he lost crucial five months from February to June. “Javier had a different vision. It took us time to start trusting each other on tennis courts but that trust never came, maybe because I was not performing well. It could have been my fault, or his fault. It just did not click,” he explained. “There were some patterns where he wanted me to hit, say C before a ball, but I wanted to hit B. Then there were shoulder and hip injuries. I don’t know why. So if I am injured, what will he do?”

‘Not a problem’

Nagal said he was keen to train with Milos Galecic from last year, but due to the Serbian’s prior commitments, it could not happen. But since September, he is with him in Paine, Germany. “I have been playing well since then. Tennis is not a problem,” he said, adding that his immediate goal is to make French Open Qualifiers this year.

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That he is confident and aggressive is often seen on courts, where he fights for every ball, and can be seen arguing with umpires over disputed calls. “It comes from where I belong to. It is in blood. That is how my family is. My mother is calmer but my father, sister and I are aggressive. We snap in a second. Haryanvis are like that,” he said.

Asked if he needs to be calmer, he said, “Right now it has not caused me any problems. I have a team and I don’t think I need to change and have someone else around me.”

‘The only truth’

Did he make a bad choice by refusing to play the Davis Cup tie against Serbia in September this year? Nagal clarified, “I never refused to play the tie. When I got the first email in June, I was still injured. I did not know how my shoulder was going to be. I told them (All India Tennis Association) that I was not available for the tie. My shoulder got the better end of August. Then Yuki [Bhambri] pulled out and I get an email that I was in [the team]. If I were playing for myself, it would have been different but I was playing for the team. Playing individually, I can stop any time but in Davis Cup I can’t do that. That’s a bad choice if I do that.”

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Asked if he had not wanted to play a tournament at the same time, he said, “It was supposed to be my first tournament. I had not played for seven weeks.” He insisted that he hadn’t put conditions for playing but had sought the help of AITA to get a wild card for Romania Challenger. Nagal said this was the only truth behind him missing the Serbia tie.

Interestingly, one of the tattoos on his chest says “Satyamev Prakashyate, Gupt Vaarta na Bhashyate (truth can’t be hidden and secrets can’t be spoken).”