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After runner-up finish in Tulln, Nagal turns focus on India duties

SportsAfter runner-up finish in Tulln, Nagal turns focus on India duties

Sumit Nagal left the ATP Tulln Challenger with a runner-up trophy but enters a rare stretch of playing back-to-back for the country at the Davis Cup and Asian Games this month with confidence.

Nagal, ranked 189th, ran out of gas in a 2-6, 4-6 defeat to Czech Vit Kopriva in the final(HT Media)

Nagal, ranked 189th, ran out of gas in a 2-6, 4-6 defeat to Czech Vit Kopriva in the final of a tournament where he took down three seeds: eighth seed Vitaliy Sachko (ranked 165) in the round of 16, top seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas (88) in the quarter-finals and fourth seed Flavio Cobolli (137) in the semi-finals.

It was Nagal’s third Challenger final of a solid season in which he has bagged two titles (Tampere in July and Rome in April) after starting the year ranked outside the top 500. The week in Tulln will bring him close to a top-150 spot; he is likely to jump 33 places to 156th in the ATP rankings on Monday.

“Very good week,” Nagal said after the final. “I am happy with my performances, especially in the last three weeks.”

It should put him in good stead over the next few weeks while turning up for India at the Hangzhou Asian Games preceded by the home Davis Cup tie this weekend against Morocco.

Tennis added to India’s medal tally at the 2018 Asian Games with two singles medals — Prajnesh Gunneswaran (bronze) and Ankita Raina (bronze) — apart from the men’s doubles gold. Not among the two Indians in the singles draw, the 26-year-old from Jhajjar played doubles with Ramkumar Ramanathan five years ago. Now the India No. 1 in singles, Nagal thrives on the added rush of representing the country.

At the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Nagal was the first Indian to win a singles tennis match at the Olympics since Leander Paes claimed bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Games. He beat the reigning Asian Games gold medallist Denis Istomin before losing to Daniil Medvedev.

“I’m very much looking forward to it (Asian Games). I’m always excited to play for the country. It’s a privileged feeling for me,” Nagal said. “I will give my best on the court.”

Back from a hip surgery last year in which his results dipped, Nagal has been more consistent this season, making three finals and five semi-finals on the Challenger tour. He had a rough couple of matches last month in Challengers in Liberec and Meerbusch ahead of the US Open qualifying, where he ran into 95th-ranked Taro Daniel in the first round.

“After the Meerbusch loss I sat down with my coaches and made a plan on how I wanted to play the next few weeks — which was just going on the court, hitting the balls you are supposed to hit and be okay with a mistake and move on,” Nagal said. “I felt like I did that for a majority of the last few weeks, except the (quarter-final) match in Como (before the Tulln Challenger).”

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