New Delhi, February 2
Gearing up to compete at next week’s Australian Open, India’s Sumit Nagal on Tuesday said he had a gut feeling that he would bump into a top-10 player at the first Grand Slam of the season.
Nagal has been awarded a wild card entry into the hard court major and he will come to know about his opponent when the draw is announced on Thursday.
On his Grand Slam main draw debut at the 2019 US Open, Nagal shook the tennis world by taking a set off Roger Federer. The next year he lost to eventual winner Dominic Thiem in the second round at the Flushing Meadows.
“I was talking about this with my coach last night and I have a feeling that I will play a top-10 player. It’s my gut feeling, let’s see what happens,” Nagal said in a virtual media conference, arranged by Sony.
Asked if playing against the best players get the best out of him, the 23-year-old said he learns from big players.
“It is with lot of players that they perform better when they are up against really good players. For me, I get to learn playing them so I don’t mind playing big players, someone in top-10,” he said.
“To try and match what Federer does is very-very difficult. What I learn from him is how he understands himself and how he reads the game. He will never make the same mistake twice, he’s that good.
“I could learn a lot from Thiem. I would like to play the way he plays, solid backhand, serving well, good forehand. I try to copy him a lot.”
Asked to elaborate, Nagal said, “The way he (Thiem) practices, his intensity is pretty high. He makes sure that wherever he does, he does it right. He is very disciplined on court. He does not show bad behaviour in practice or matches.”
Heading into the Australian Open, Nagal has just played one match that he lost to Ricardas Bernakis in straight sets. He also shut his 2020 season early. Does he feel undercooked before the major?
“I ended the last season a month earlier and then I tried coming back, I was not ready. There is nothing I can change, I can’t control my past. I am trying to practice as much as possible and get better every day, so I am ready for Australian Open.”
Being the only Indian in the men’s singles is a privilege for him.
“I don’t feel pressure, I feel excited, that maybe I can change things and people will start taking tennis more seriously.”
Having spent the last two weeks in quarantine in Melbourne ahead of the tournament, Nagal said staying in bio-bubbles for longer periods won’t be easy for players and those with family and kids can be seen pulling out.
“It depends from player to player. There are players who are older, got family, kids. It’s (quarantine) not easy, you can do it a time or two (once or twice) but to do it for 10 months long is not easy.”
Nagal also revealed that he and former Indian Davis Cupper Somdev Devvarman were planning to work together last season.
“But then COVID-19 happened. He is trying to get visa for Germany.” PTI