CHENNAI: When the injured Rohan Bopanna’s withdrawal from the September 16-18 Davis Cup tie took the wind out of the last remaining sail of hosts India on last Saturday, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) took the bold decision to upgrade 19-year-old reserve Sumit Nagal’s status.
The 2015 junior Wimbledon doubles champion has won four ITF Futures titles, the last one coming two weeks back, and continues to rise up the ranks, albeit one small step at a time. Presently listed as World No 380, the Jhajjar lad is the fourth-ranked Indian in singles.
At the moment, however, his services, if required, will only be availed in doubles alongside Leander Paes. While it’s unclear if he’ll get to play at all, it’s possible Saketh Myneni or Ramkumar Ramanathan get the nod, being picked is bound to give Nagal a mighty shot in the arm.
Speaking to Express, Nagal sounds hopeful of making his debut against a side that features the indomitable Rafael Nadal. “It’s an honour to be in the top four and playing for India. I’m also lucky enough to be facing Spain when they’ve got their best-ever team. I don’t know if I’ll get to play just yet. We’ll see how the matches go, but I’ll be very happy to play against one of them,” he said.
India’s Achilles’ heel has always been a lack of depth in singles. Yuki Bhambri is dealing with tennis elbow. Somdev Devvarman is incapacitated by a foot issue. Myneni, spearheading the attack in New Delhi, has his own personal bugbear — cramps. Only Ramkumar looks like he’s in control of his body.
Interestingly, it seems Nagal is pretty durable himself. An AITA source said Nagal is like a mini Devvarman. “He’s fit and fast but needs to work more on his weight of shot. Even so, he’s on the right track. We need to develop the singles talent pool. Doubles is only worth one point. What about the other four?”
If everything goes according to plan, this is likely to be the first of many Davis Cup call-ups, but Nagal isn’t interested in such conjecture. “I need to keep improving. There are no shortcuts,” he signed off.