EXCLUSIVE: Sumit Nagal Brings Indian Tennis To The Main Stage But He Has Concerns About The Future - UBITENNIS
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EXCLUSIVE: Sumit Nagal Brings Indian Tennis To The Main Stage But He Has Concerns About The Future

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After spending the past few years predominantly on the Challenger Tour, Sumit Nagal is currently in the midst of a breakthrough season. 

The 26-year-old is ranked 73rd in the world after cracking the top 100 for the first time in February. At the Australian Open, he became the first Indian man to beat a seeded player at a Grand Slam for 35 years after upsetting Alexander Bublik in the first round. Then in Monte Carlo, he became the first singles player from his country to win a main draw Masters 1000 match, as well as the first to qualify for the tournament in 42 years.

Nagal’s rapid rise earned him the right to play in Wimbledon this year for the first time. A big coup for India considering the last time they had a player in the men’s singles draw was Prajnesh Gunneswaran in 2019. Unfortunately, Nagal’s experience at The All-England Club was brief. He lost his opening match  2-6, 6-3, 3-6, 4-6 to Miomir Kecmanovic, as well as in the first round of the doubles event.  

“It was a great experience,” he tells Ubitennis.

“I really enjoyed it. I played on grass after a very long time. I did lack a bit of experience on it but it was a good lesson and an amazing atmosphere.

“What a feeling to play in the main draw of Wimbledon.  It has a very unique and different vibe compared to the other slams.

“It’s not the result I wanted, especially in singles but for the circumstances I had, I think I will take this and try to improve on the things that I need to.”

Incredibly, Wimbledon was the first time Nagal had played a grasscourt event since 2018. Whilst there is clear disappointment about his performance, it doesn’t change what has largely been a strong year for him so far.

“I think the moment of breaking the top hundred because for so long, I was close to it but never really broke it.” He replied when asked what his standout achievement of 2024 has been so far. 

“Also winning the challenger in Chennai,  I did end up crying. That moment meant a lot to me.”

“I see change but not in a positive way”

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Coming from a country that has an estimated population of 1.4 billion people, some might expect Nagal to be hamperedby high expectations or a surge in popularity. However, this isn’t the case.

“In tennis, India’s single tennis players are not really known for it. so I don’t think there is there is a much of expectation.” He explained.

“We have a singles player once in five years who’s playing a slam once in seven years. So I don’t feel it that way.

“I would say there are more expectations from myself because I do want to do well in my career and I want to climb the rankings. Keep on knocking on those doors of different sorts of challenges that I go through.”

There have been plenty of challenges for Nagal throughout his life. As a youngster, he was based in Bengaluru and trained at an academy set up by Mahesh Bhupathi. However, when the facility shut down he ended up setting off to Canada as a teenager to develop his tennis. Over the coming years, he would continue to experience highs and lows. At the 2019 US Open, he famously took a set off Roger Federer but three years later he found himself outside the top 600 due to a combination of injury, the Covid-19 pandemic and his inner demons. At the end of 2022, he had less than €1000 in his bank account. 

Unlike other countries, Sumit relies on private support instead of his national federation, the All India Tennis Association (AITA). 

“It’s a little bit, a little bit tough to get any help from them.” He said.

He doesn’t refrain from speaking openly about the concerns he has about tennis back home. Certain ‘changes’ taking place cause concern for him and his only hope is that action can be taken to correct it. As it currently stands, India has only three players in the top 500 on the PIF ATP ranking but Nagal is the only one in the top 300. To put that into perspective, there are 12 British, 18 Australian and 24 Italian players in the top 300.

“Right now we are struggling in singles especially. We don’t have enough players to compete at the highest levels in singles.” He said. 

“I think it’s gonna take a while. I do see a bit of change but not in a positive way. What is going on in the country, I just hope someone can take a step and start to change things around. Otherwise, it’s going to be very, very tough.

“It’s going to be the same story. One top 100 player in ten years, 15 years, maybe something like this. But if things don’t change around, it’s it’s not gonna be much, much better than this.”

As to what these issues are, Nagal believes the current tennis structure in India is missing the basics. 

“We are still missing a base, a fundamental, a system which is not there. And if you want to play at this level, you need this. This is the most basic thing you can have.” He continued.

“Have few good coaches and have balls to practice. This is just the basic and we don’t really have it.

“I’m not even gonna get into details because the first step would be to have a high-performance program going on.

“I don’t know if it’s going to be by the association or by the private sponsors, but, if you want to create players to play at the high level, you have to give these things or else it’s always going to be a player trying to find private funding, living in outside India, playing either in America or Europe or somewhere.”

The future

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It is no secret that Nagal doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with the AITA and he has voiced similar concerns before. However, that doesn’t affect the national pride he has. Something he hopes to demonstrate at the Paris Olympics which will be held at Roland Garros. At the Tokyo Games, he was the first Indian to reach the second round in 25 years.  

“My goal from the beginning of the year was to play in the Olympics. It’s a proud, proud feeling for me. This is going to be my second, second Olympic.” He said. 

“I’m gonna another chance for me to try my best and and and keep the flag high for India.”

Nagal now aims to play a couple of tournaments on the clay to get ready for Paris. Then the US swing will be calling him. 

“That biggest goal is being healthy because if you’re healthy and you’re playing tournaments, that’s the best thing you can ask for.” He concludes.

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Carlos Alcaraz And Novak Djokovic Wouldn’t Yield To Medvedev And Musetti At Wimbledon

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image via x.com/wimbledon

Carlos Alcaraz seemed to be on his own against a vastly improved Daniil Medvedev. The defending Wimbledon champion appeared to be out of tricks.

And Medvedev sensed it.

Alcaraz still scored a 6-7 (1), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Medvedev. It may look rather easy on paper, but there was nothing easy about Alcaraz’s victory. The young Spaniard just came through when he needed it to advance to what he hopes will lead to his fourth Grand Slam title.

MEDVEDEV APPLIED ENDLESS PRESSURE

Medvedev was always there, ready to pounce on any mistake by Alcaraz. But mistakes didn’t happen that often after Medvedev took the first set in a tie-breaker.

Alcaraz hadn’t served that well in the first set that Medvedev had taken in a tiebreaker. But it was a different story once Alcaraz found the mark on his serves. He just kept holding service until the match was his.

Remember, he’s only 21 years old. But now he faces someone in this Wimbledon final almost twice as old in 37-year-old Novak Djokovic.

NOVAK DIDN’T LET INJURED KNEE STOP HIM

Early in the match, Djokovic looked like he might have problems against Lorenzo Musetti. He appeared to have a slight limp in the right knee that was covered by a band. Of course, it’s been less than six months since Novak underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in that knee.

Djokovic didn’t always chase after balls in situations where his service game wasn’t in jeopardy. He just hit winners when the opportunities came along, and his serve was always ready to win a point, a game or the match.

MUSETTI WASN’T THE SAME

Young 25th seed Musetti had been so strong and talented in his quarterfinal upset of Taylor Fritz. The 22-year-old Italian had looked like he might be a threat to the likes of Djokovic and Alcaraz in the last two rounds in London.

Musetti appeared to be able to run down everything against the speedy Fritz, until Fritz seemed to grow tired in a fifth set that Musetti won easily.

The Italian wasn’t the same against Djokovic.

Djokovic was just too good and too consistent to allow Musetti to stop his bid for another title.

NOVAK THE VIOLINIST

The setting was completely different this time with Djokovic looking questionable at the start. But Musetti could hardly push Djokovic, and ended up losing by a 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-4. Once Novak charged through the second set tiebreaker, dropping only two points, Musetti couldn’t get back into the match.

And then Novak came out pretending to play a violin on his racket for his precious 6-year-old daughter Tara, whom Novak said has been learning to play the violin for about six months.

Some fans apparently didn’t like this, but then there probably were others who became Novak Djokovic fans. Novak obviously is a great guy and dad these days.

After all, Novak has just played his 97th Wimbledon match, and he’s hoping in his 37th Grand Slam final to tie Roger Federer’s record of eight Wimbledon titles.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Carlos Alcaraz Beats Fiery Medvedev To Reach Second Wimbledon Final

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Image via x.com/wimbledon

Carlos Alcaraz has become the second Spanish man in history to reach multiple Wimbledon finals after beating Daniil Medvedev who had a run-in with the umpire during their semi-final clash. 

The defending champion battled back from a set down to beat his opponent 6-7(1), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. Making it the fifth time in a row he has defeated a top-five player at Tour-level events. Alcaraz has now won 18 out of 20 matches played at Wimbledon so far in his career.

Meanwhile, ex-US Open champion Medvedev produced a solid fight early on before getting outmanoeuvred on the court. The world No.5 got caught up in a dispute with umpire Eva Asderaki concerning one call which resulted in him receiving a code violation. Whilst his exact words were not picked up on camera, it appeared that he used offensive language against Asderaki. 

(It was) Different conditions, but I’m happy with my performance today.” Said Alcaraz.
“He (Medvedev) was dominating the match and playing great tennis with his serves. It was difficult for me and he tried to pull out all the shots. 
“It was helpful to be up 2-1 (in sets) and after that I could enjoy the match. In general I think I played a good match.”

A roller-coaster opening set saw Medvedev start by coming through a six-minute service game before his defensive shot-making began to draw a series of unforced errors from Alcaraz, who was struggling to find the right balance in his powerful hitting. Three consecutive breaks of serve midway through the set moved Medvedev to a 5-2 lead.

However, another twist unfolded on Centre Court with Alcaraz clawing his way back to level. It was during this period that the Russian landed himself in hot water. During a rally, the umpire called a double bounce against the 28-year-old, who then appeared to swear multiple times at the official. Following a brief discussion with the supervisor, he was hit with a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“If you use a swear word you’re going to get a code violation and a warning and a fine, but if you verbally abuse the umpire, that’s when there’s a question mark. It could be a default,” The I quoted Tim Henman as telling the BBC.
“Just from where we’re sitting to see the umpire get down off the umpire’s chair, to see the umpire and the supervisor to go on the court, that doesn’t happen unless something has gone on.”

The controversy did little to unsettle the fifth seed who cruised through the tiebreaker by winning seven out of eight points.

Urging the crowd to cheer him on by putting his finger to his ear, Alcaraz produced a clinical fightback in the second frame to turn the match around in his favour. A three-game winning run guided him to level the match. 

The Spaniard continued to weather the storm with the help of back-to-back Medvedev forehand errors handing him a break for 3-1 in the third. It wasn’t a perfect performance from Alcaraz, who made the occasional mistake such as a mishit on a smash which would have given him a set point when leading 5-3. Nevertheless, it was enough for him to extend his lead to two sets against one. 

Closing in on victory and elevating the quality of his tennis, he dismantled the Medvedev two more times before converting his first match point by hitting a forehand shot that his rival returned out.

I tried to play long rallies and tried to play to the net as much as I can. I tried to not play his game.” He said of his tactics used against Medvedev.
“There were a few points that were really long rallies, but I tried to put my own game [on the match]. It was difficult to break the wall!”

Alcaraz is bidding to become the first player outside the Big Three to defend the men’s Wimbledon title since Pete Sampras more than 20 years ago. 

“I feel like I am not new anymore,” he commented.
“I know how I feel before the final I have been in this position before – I will try to do the things that I didn’t do last year and be better. 

In the final, he will play either Novak Djokovic, in what will be a repeat of last year’s title clash, or Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti. 

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Alex De Minaur Speaks About Kyrgios’ Retun After Wimbledon Withdrawal

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Nick Kyrgios (AUS) playing against Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) in the third round of the Gentlemen's Singles on No.1 Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 6 Saturday 03/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Jonathan Nackstrand

Nick Kyrgios is expected to return to action in the coming weeks with an appearance at the US Open on the cards, according to his compatriot.

Alex de Minaur told reporters at Wimbledon on Wednesday that he believes the former top 20 player will return to action at some point during the upcoming US hardcourt swing. Marking the end of his lengthy absence from the sport due to various injury issues. 

Kyrgios underwent surgery on his left knee in January 2023 before suffering another injury blow with a wrist issue. The last Tour-level match that he played was at the Stuttgart Open in June last year. He has only been able to play six tournaments since reaching his first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon in 2022. 

“I’m trying to have some hits with the players who are here to see where my wrist is at. It’s been 10 months since my surgery, so I’ll try to work my way back onto the court,” Kyrgios told the UTS website in June.

“I’ll be playing doubles in the next month (on the ATP Tour). It will be exciting. I’ll probably start there and hopefully, if everything is OK, I’ll move to singles and then I’ll see how long I’ll hang around for.

“I missed competing, I missed hearing the crowd, my fans. Even the people that hate me, I miss them, I miss them all. I can’t wait to be back.”

It is yet to be confirmed when Kyrgios will be returning to the court as he commentates on this year’s Wimbledon Championships for the BBC. He had recently held a hitting session with Novak Djokovic and in De Minaur’s view, the tennis star is certainly improving. 

“I’ve seen him hitting. I think it looks like he’s feeling a little better. As far as I know, I think the U.S. hard court is when he’s planning to return.” He commented.

“I don’t know the exact specifics, but it will all depend on his injury and how he’s feeling.”

Unfortunately for De Minaur his Wimbledon run has come to a sad end after the Australian pulled out of his quarter-final encounter against Novak Djokovic on Wednesday due to what he describes as a ‘freak injury’ with his hip. He is estimated to be sidelined from action between three and six weeks. 

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