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In a season of steady rise, Nagal out to give ‘best send-off’ to Bopanna | Tennis News

From starting the year ranked outside 500 to being India’s top-ranked singles player currently, Sumit Nagal has come a long way this season. He also has ambitious plans for his future in tennis, and, for the moment, is determined to maintain his recent positive streak in the Davis Cup tie against Morocco and the Asian Games.

Indian Tennis player Rohan Bopanna in action during practice session ahead of Davis Cup in Lucknow(Hindustan Times)
Indian Tennis player Rohan Bopanna in action during practice session ahead of Davis Cup in Lucknow(Hindustan Times)

Nagal, 26, jumped 33 points to 156th in the ATP rankings this week after his runner-up finish at the ATP Tulln Challenger on Sunday. High on confidence from his Challenger title wins at Tampere in July and Rome in April, Nagal’s primary goal now is to bid a winning farewell to his colleague and senior pro Rohan Bopanna. The 43-year-old will play his final Davis Cup match against Morocco this weekend in Lucknow.

“It’s an emotional occasion for Bopanna, as well as for us, as he is playing his last Davis Cup match for India. Winning the tie will give him the best send-off,” Nagal said during the captains’ meeting on Thursday where both teams were announced for the World Group-II tie. He will lead India’s challenge alongside Bopanna, Sasikumar Mukund, Yuki Bhambri, and debutant Digvijay Pratap Singh.

Nagal acknowledged that playing for oneself on the professional tour and representing the country are two distinct experiences. “When you play for your personal goals, your focus remains centered on your plans, but everything changes when you play for your country,” Nagal said.

Coming off a solid week in Tulln, Nagal expressed satisfaction with his performances. “Things are moving in the right direction for me, and my body is in good condition,” he said.

He admitted that last year, marked by his struggles to find his rhythm coming back from a hip surgery in late 2021 and two bouts of Covid-19, was challenging.

“It was beyond my control. It was a tough time when I couldn’t play yet the expenses remained, such as paying salaries to my coach and physio. My rankings weren’t favourable in the first three months this year, but April marked a turning point,” he said.

That was when Nagal won the Rome Challenger as a qualifier to end a four-year Challenger title drought. Looking back to the testing phase before that, Nagal said it “taught me valuable life lessons”. “No athlete desires to be injured, but during injury, you contemplate numerous things, including your comeback,” Nagal added.

Debutant Digvijay motivated by call-up

Meanwhile, Singh, 23, was excited about the prospect of participating in his first-ever Davis Cup tie, if given a chance to play this weekend. “I am super excited. Last year, I was in reserves, but this time, being in the main team is a huge motivation, especially with players like Rohan, Sumit and Yuki, who have performed well this year,” Singh said.

The debutant added, “I am really looking forward to it, and it’s a proud moment for me. Being part of this team during Bopanna’s final Davis Cup tie will always be a cherished memory.”

Morocco’s non-playing captain, Mehdi Tahiri, also unveiled his five-member team comprising Elliot Benchetrit, Yassine Dlimi, Adam Moundir, Walid Ahouda, and Younes Lalami Laaroussi.

The draw ceremony is scheduled for noon on Friday. It will be conducted by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath at his official residence in the presence of players and officials from both teams. Matches on Saturday will commence at 2pm, while those on Sunday will kick off at 1pm.

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