Challenger Chat: Back In Action With Sumit Nagal

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Sumit Nagal, the World No. 127 and highest-ranked player from India, talks about his preparation for the restart of the ATP Challenger Tour in Prague and reflects on his time away from the circuit while training in Germany.

It’s time to get back to business. This week, the ATP Challenger Tour returns with a pair of tournaments in Prague, Czech Republic and Todi, Italy. After five months on the sidelines, players are eager to resume their 2020 campaigns on the European clay.

Those competing on the Challenger circuit will once again battle for coveted FedEx ATP Rankings points, as they look to continue their quests towards the Top 100 and beyond. Sumit Nagal is no exception. After five months training at the Nensel Tennis Academy in Germany, the World No. 127 is hungry.

“We started training in the middle of April and I feel really good about my game now, with all the work we put in,” said Nagal. “In a way, I took this break as a positive for myself. It was easy on my body. I was in one place for the first time in almost 10 years. It just never happens as a tennis player.

“There were some days that weren’t easy, just not knowing when we’re going to return to the tour. It was a very different lifestyle. But there comes a point where enough is enough. I really want to travel again and play matches. It’s what we all train for. I’m excited to get in the competitive mode again.”

Nagal is ready to return to the court in Prague, before traveling to New York for a second straight US Open appearance. It was just last year that India’s top player emerged onto the scene with an opening-night duel against Roger Federer in Flushing Meadows.

Now, Nagal is heading to the hard-court Grand Slam with a different attitude and a renewed sense of confidence. He believes that it is all courtesy of that experience against Federer and the subsequent surge of momentum. Just one month later, he would capture his second Challenger title in Buenos Aires, eventually surging to a career-high of No. 125 to launch his 2020 campaign.  

Everything has changed for the Jhajjar native.

“The biggest thing that I have realized is how important confidence is in tennis. One week you can barely win a game and the next week you can win any tournament. After that match, I realized that I am better than staying around Top 200 in my life. I moved up 80 spots since then and I started to develop my game on faster surfaces. Just realizing that about myself and who I am was the biggest step. Everything can change with one moment.”

During the tour’s suspension, Nagal passed the time by playing plenty of video games, going for drives around the German countryside and even attending the wedding of fellow Challenger competitor and close friend Kimmer Coppejans.

Following months of rest, training blocks and plenty of downtime, Nagal is ready to roll at the I.CLTK Prague Open By Moneta. He celebrates his 23rd birthday and Sunday and opens against either Dmitry Popko or Jay Clarke on Monday. The sixth seed could face World No. 17 Stan Wawrinka in an enticing quarter-final encounter.

“It’s not going to be easy for anyone, because we haven’t played tournaments in many months. It’s the same for the other guy as well. It’s going to be about fighting on the court and less about tennis and tactics. You’re not in a rhythm right now. I think I need to focus on fighting for every point and not about how well I’m hitting the ball. It’s all about staying hungry and who wants it more in the end.

“I’m in a spot where I want to take the next step and I don’t think I’m too far from it… getting that double-digit ranking.”

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Rapid Fire With Sumit
One thing you could not live without in quarantine
Wifi. I’m a big gamer and watch TV shows. Doing quarantine without wifi is not possible.

Were you cooking Indian food for yourself in Germany?
No, I’m not good in the kitchen. I would probably eat out two or three times a week and we have good food here at the academy. I miss Indian food like crazy. It’s been a while.

What’s been the best TV show you’ve watched in quarantine?
I’ve been watching The Good Doctor. And I also enjoyed some anime shows and Ozark on Netflix. I watched around 10 different series the past few months.

What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you the past few months?
The quarantine. Getting time for myself has changed me on court and off court. The reason behind the quarantine is awful, as we are fighting against COVID, but having time for myself is what I needed.

The one thing you miss most about normal life.
My friends, going out and returning back to India. Those are the three things I’d say I miss most.

If you could travel to one place right now, where would you go?
I’d go home to India. It’s been a while.

What is the one thing you miss most about competing on tour?
Playing for points, money and your goals. If you can’t play a match, you can’t chase your tennis goals. This is what we live for.

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