Sumit Nagal gives cricket-mad Indians a tennis dream at Australian Open

India's Sumit Nagal stretches against Kazakhstan's Alexander Bublik in Melbourne on Tuesday.

India's Sumit Nagal stretches against Kazakhstan's Alexander Bublik in Melbourne on Tuesday. Photo: AFP/Getty

Sumit Nagal, the first Indian man to beat a seeded opponent at a grand slam since 1989, is hoping to shift the perception of tennis in the cricket-mad nation.

The 26-year-old qualifier, who speaks to Indian cricket superstar Virat Kohli “once in a while”, knocked out Kazakhstan’s 31st seed Alexander Bublik with a 6-4 6-2 7-6 (7-5) victory at the Australian Open on Tuesday.

It was only Nagal’s fifth match at a grand slam and first since last being at Melbourne Park in 2021.

Nagal’s previous claim to fame was taking a set off the legendary Roger Federer in a first-round match at the US Open in 2019.

The world No.137 moved to Germany and continues to live there to pursue his tennis dream.

“First, to have more tournaments in the country, bring coaches in, better facilities. Just a better system,” Nagal said about what needed to improve in Indian tennis.

“Why are all tennis players – singles I’m talking about – going outside India and living outside India to give themselves a chance? We should ask why.”

Nagal quit playing tennis as a 14-year-old, feeling like it was too hard for him to make it at the elite level.

“In 2010 the program (I was in) got shut,” he said.

“I went back to Delhi in Jan … I said it’s impossible. I cannot afford it.

“My dad is a teacher, so I said it’s impossible to afford this.”

Nagal, who will face teenage Chinese wildcard Juncheng Shang in the second round, said it felt nice to inspire Indians like cricketers have always done.

“I speak to him (Kohli) once in a while. I was also a part of his foundation,” Nagal said.

“Thanks to him for those years. You know, which Indian doesn’t like cricket?

“I follow it and watch it whenever I get a chance.”


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