Millennium Post

'Getting into Olympics will change things in my career'

New Delhi: To say that Sumit Nagal has been lucky to get into the men's singles draw at the Tokyo Olympics would be indeed uncharitable.

The 23-year-old boy from Jhajjar, Haryana, who stepped out into the lonely world of professional tennis, has led a very hard life. Had it not been for the motivation and push from his mentor Mahesh Bhupathi and the support lent by the Virat Kohli Foundation, Nagal may not have made it this far. He is currently ranked 144 in the world.

Last week, when he got into the singles draw as Yuki Bhambri's slot fell vacant due to an injury, Nagal did not know whether to believe it, at first. He has spent the last 16 months of COVID-19 enforced lockdown in solitude in Germany.

Staying away from the glare and razzmatazz of a big city, Nagal trained hard during lockdown and played events when he got the opportunity in Europe. Staying in Germany has been hand-to-mouth existence and he even said last year he was living off his savings.

He grabbed headlines in 2019 when he took a set off Roger Federer at the US Open in New York. Yet, the support he got from his own federation (AITA) was zilch. "I knew the rankings were going to drop for the Olympics. But none the less I am very happy that I got in. I am getting a chance to wear the Indian colours and represent the country. I cannot complain about it," Nagal told Millennium Post. The Olympics opening ceremony is on Friday.

To be sure, it could have been even better for Nagal had the AITA planned better. Then, Nagal could have made the doubles draw as well with Rohan Bopanna. However, lack of planning from the federation has caused damage.

"To be honest, I have been struggling with a few things, but I do not want to talk about it. I think getting into Olympics will change things in my career. I mean, it doesn't matter what people tell you about the experience at the Olympics. It is going to be an amazing experience for me and I will give it my 100 per cent on the court," said Nagal, who is physically and mentally strong. He is ready for the humid weather in Tokyo.

Pressed further on the Olympics, Nagal opened up. "This was not easy, such a change in my schedule at the last minute. I mean this is the Olympics and I was actually thinking about it last year. The Olympic Games come once in four years and it has been my main goal to compete in it. My main goal was to play the Olympics last year. Now that I have got in, I am going to give it my 100 per cent shot. In tennis, anything is possible and those are the things I am looking forward to," explained Nagal.

This year has been a tough one for Nagal. He missed Wimbledon and does not want to talk about it.

"I am not going to talk about my injury. I want to focus on being positive and play my very best tennis," said Nagal, for whom the hard courts should be conducive.

He has produced many good results in the Davis Cup in the past and does not suffer from stage fright. Hopefully, he can show to his fans he will come out firing, irrespective of who his opponents are

in Tokyo.

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