The final time Sumit Nagal received 5 matches on the bounce on the circuit earlier than the earlier week was in September 2019, en path to profitable the ATP Challenger title in Buenos Aires. A year-and-a-half later, the Argentine capital has once more supplied a path for the Indian to go on the same run, this time on a a lot greater stage.
Nagal was trying good to notch up his sixth straight win on the ATP 250 Argentina Open earlier than he ran out of gasoline to lose to fifth seeded Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-4, 2-6, 5-7 within the quarter-finals on Friday evening. Nagal’s forehand was doing all of the speaking within the first set, however as soon as the Forty sixth-ranked southpaw compelled the world No. 150 to play out of his consolation zone, the errors started to indicate up from the Indian. Nagal fought again from 5-2 down within the decider to get on even phrases at 5-5. Nevertheless, the grueling hours spent in overcoming two three-set battles within the qualifying rounds and enjoying six matches in seven days meant the legs weren’t in sync with the thoughts for the final main push.
Nonetheless, it was a strong week on the crimson filth for the 23-year-old, coming after early exits in Melbourne and Cordoba. Nagal skilled a few firsts—a primary ATP Tour degree win, a primary win in opposition to a top-50 participant whereas beating world No. 22 Cristian Garin within the earlier spherical. “I wanted it very a lot, particularly not having sufficient matches within the final 4 months,” Nagal mentioned over telephone of his marketing campaign after his match on Friday. “It additionally made me imagine I may stand at this degree.”
Stand he did tall sufficient; now for constructing on it. It’s evident that Nagal is essentially the most blossoming prospect in Indian tennis, ticking a couple of bins over the past couple of years— a primary Challenger title in 2017, a Grand Slam debut on the 2019 US Open, a Grand Slam victory on the 2020 US Open, a wild card entry into the Australian Open this 12 months. In between these milestones there have been a couple of missteps, and the important thing problem for Nagal now can be to string collectively such deep match runs on a extra common foundation on the ATP tour. “To play lots of matches on the ATP 250 or 500 and even larger ranges can be my objective,” Nagal mentioned within the post-match press convention.
Nagal cited the instance of his buddy and hitting companion within the Melbourne quarantine, Aslan Karatsev. The Russian qualifier, 27, had a breakthrough semi-final run on the Australian Open in February on the again of enjoying and profitable lots of matches on the ATP Challenger circuit within the latter half of 2020. Taking his cue, Nagal is aware of that the extra such weeks he will get in his calendar the extra constant he can get on the prime degree. “Take a look at the way in which he (Karatsev) performed final 12 months,” Nagal mentioned. “He had this perception this 12 months on the court docket and knew he may beat anybody. If you find yourself on that a lot confidence, issues go your method and the whole lot begins to fall in place as you might be a lot calmer and seeing via issues.”
In the previous couple of years, Indian gamers have supplied the odd spark on the ATP tour, be it when Ramkumar Ramanathan beat Dominic Thiem in Antalya in 2017 or when Yuki Bhambri bought previous Gael Monfils the identical 12 months in Washington. However for causes starting from accidents to dip in type, they haven’t been in a position to make use of that huge outcome as a springboard to proceed their progress to the following degree.
The legendary Mahesh Bhupathi, who has mentored Nagal and has additionally been India’s Davis Cup captain, felt the following main guidelines for Nagal can be to interrupt into the top-100 of the world rankings. That, in flip, will get him into much more ATP essential draw matches with out having to grind although the qualifiers like in Argentina, which, mentioned Bhupathi, will give a “longer windpipe into the match”.
“The examples that you just said are of men who haven’t constantly performed in essential attracts (since their upset outcome),” Bhupathi mentioned. “The largest problem is to place your self into 20-25 essential attracts a 12 months, after which in case you have the extent, it’s very exhausting to drop out. So moving into the top-100 is an important milestone for him (Nagal) now.”
Bhupathi has little question that Nagal has the extent, and the time. “Everyone knows he’s ok, proper? Took a set off (Roger) Federer, beat Garin on clay—so everyone knows he’s bought the extent. And he’s nonetheless younger. Was Somdev (Devvarman) at his degree at 23? I don’t assume so. Was even somebody like Diego Schwartzman at his degree at 23? I don’t assume so. So I believe he’s on the proper path,” he mentioned.
The week in Argentina has reiterated that for Nagal, who mentioned he’s a extra assured participant now than every week in the past. The run has additionally pushed his rankings up from 150 to 139, bringing him nearer to breaking the 100 barrier. Nagal is eyeing that sooner somewhat than later. “Being within the top-100 will get you in the principle draw of lots of tournaments. On the finish of the day, I need to be enjoying at that degree and I’m on my solution to doing that as quickly as potential,” he mentioned.