Sumit Nagal, all of 17, has been in the news ever since winning the 2015 Wimbledon boys’ doubles title. The teenager now aims to transition full-time to the professional circuit and says his goal is to be ranked high enough to play the qualifying draw of the French Open.
Sports Rediscovered caught up with Sumit in this exclusive interview, where he opens up about winning the title in London, his off-court activities and which female tennis player he would like to date. Here are the excerpts –
SR: Firstly, congratulations on your win at Wimbledon. How did that moment feel? Did you go to London with expectations of winning one of the junior titles?
Sumit Nagal: Obviously, I am super happy that we won the title. Coming from such a big continent and seeing such a low number of people doing well out of billions, it just feels great. And to be honest, I feel even more happy because he (his doubles partner Nam Hoang Ly) is the first Vietnamese ever to win such a big title. In that sense, we made history and my name will always be there, so nothing can beat that feeling. Yes I did go there with the expectations but for winning the singles, not the doubles title.
SR: You are only the sixth Indian to win a junior Grand Slam title. Does that add pressure on you in terms of expectations from the career you have ahead?
Sumit Nagal: Yes, I am aware that I am the sixth guy to win a Grand Slam. No, it does not add any pressure on me. I want to be the first to win a Grand Slam in singles, so I am all ready for all this.
SR: You are currently ranked No. 34 in the ITF junior rankings. Do you intend to continue playing the junior circuit till you are eligible or focus more on the pro circuit in the coming months?
Sumit Nagal: No, I am done playing juniors. Juniors ranking was never my goal to be honest. It was just about playing the right tournaments at the right moment.
SR: How did you get involved in tennis as a kid? Who have been the people instrumental in getting you to where you are at this point?
Sumit Nagal: I wanted to play cricket and my Dad did not see my future in it. So he took me to a sports complex and we saw tennis courts, so I just went there and started playing. Mahesh Bhupathi has been taking care of me since and has played a big role in my development.
SR: What goes on behind the scenes in the making of a professional tennis player?
Sumit Nagal: I think an answer to this will take quite a long time. As we both know there are so many things in tennis where you have to work out, but I would just say it’s all about how much good amount of hours of training, hard work, doing the right things and being patient with the success.
SR: How would you describe your game and what are the weapons you need to build on to make it to the Top 100?
Sumit Nagal: I have a good forehand, decent legs. I need to work on my serve, my mental strength and getting stronger. That’s the only way to break into the Top 100.
SR: Given that Indians are not very tall or well-built like their Western counterparts, how do they need to adapt to the demands of the professional circuit?
Sumit Nagal: We are not tall, you are right but who said we cannot be fast? We need to work more on fitness rather than just spending hours of hitting on the tennis court. To me, fitness is really important.
SR: Is travelling on the tennis circuit a lonely affair? Can you talk about some of the low moments during your tennis career and how they helped shape you as a person?
Sumit Nagal: Sometimes, it can be but the thing is I like travelling. It makes me happy. I am fond of going to different cities and learning their culture and all. But there have been some moments where I have slept on the floors, airport etc. I guess that’s normal. It’s not a big thing.
SR: Who are your favourite players on the tennis circuit?
Sumit Nagal: I like Rafael Nadal. I like his attitude, hunger and his humbleness towards the game. This guy never stops, no matter what.
SR: You have trained at some of the academies abroad. What are the kind of facilities that you would like to get incorporated in the academies in India?
Sumit Nagal: We are short of good coaches and good players at the same place. All the top players have been training abroad. Plus the courts, balls (using old balls) and the weather we have is really tough. It’s not easy to practise when the temperature is in the mid-forties because of the court or when it just rained for 20 days in a row. We barely have any indoor courts too.
SR: What are your goals for the next 12 months and your ultimate ambition?
Sumit Nagal: My aim is to play the French Open qualifying by next year. I want to be the best ever from Asia.
SR: How do you relax during tournaments and what are some of your hobbies that you cultivate in your free time?
Sumit Nagal: I like to chill with friends, watch movie or TV shows, playing games or just surfing on the internet.
SR: If you could ask one female tennis player out, who would that be?
Sumit Nagal: Haha, why does it have to be tennis? Not a smart idea. But I think I would like to go out with Ajla Tomljanovic.
SR: You and Pranjala Yadlapalli are the only Indians who are ranked high enough to play in the junior Grand Slams. Why does India lack more juniors on the international scene?
Sumit Nagal: Lack of sponsors is one of the biggest reasons I think we lack more juniors on the international scene.
Sports Rediscovered would like to thank Sumit Nagal for the interview and we wish him all the very best for his career.
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