'Love Thiem's style,' Sumit Nagal ready to face a top-10 player at Australian Open

The Indian tennis player has faced a world No. 3 in each of his two previous Grand Slams. Both turned out to be learning lessons.

By Ubaid Parkar ·

Sumit Nagal is bracing to play against one of the top tennis players at the Australian Open next week.

Handed a wild card entry to the season’s first Grand Slam, Nagal will know who he will be up against after Thursday's draw.

On his Grand Slam debut at the US Open in 2019, Sumit Nagal made headlines in India after he made Roger Federer, world No. 3 at that time, drop a set in the opening round before bowing out.

Last year at Flushing Meadows, he faced world No. 3 Dominic Thiem in the second round after becoming the first Indian in seven years to win a Grand Slam main draw match earlier.

The Australian Open, starting February 8, will be Sumit Nagal’s third Grand Slam and the Indian tennis player thinks he will be up against another big name.

“I was talking about this with my coach (Sascha Nensel) last night and I have a feeling that I will play a top-10 player,” Nagal, ranked world No. 139, told the media on Tuesday. “It's my gut feeling, let's see what happens.”

Learning from the best

Although he lost his matches against Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem, the 23-year-old Nagal nevertheless reflected on the opportunity they provided.

“A lot of players perform better when they are up against really good players,” Nagal explained. “For me, I get to learn playing them so I don’t mind playing someone in the top-10.

“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 would like to play the way Thiem plays, solid backhand, serving well, good forehand. I try to copy him a lot.

“Thiem makes sure that wherever he does, he does it right. He is very disciplined on the court. He does not show bad behaviour in practice or matches,” Nagal pointed out.

Sumit Nagal, however, could be in for a major challenge at the Australian Open. He lost to Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis in the opening round of the Murray River Open ATP 250 on Monday. In his first match in three months, Nagal went down in straight sets, winning just four games.

He will, thus, head to the Australian Open with just an hour of competitive tennis under his belt. Sumit Nagal, however, remains unperturbed.

“I want to play well. My goal is to get better with every match, every practice session, enjoy the experience and play the best tennis possible,” Nagal declared. “I need to work mostly on everything. A lot of work needs to be done.

“I hope to be sharper next week,” he concluded.