Sumit Nagal was granted a wild card entry to the Australian Open this year and faces world No. 72 Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania in his men’s singles first round clash on February 9.
Though Nagal has impressed at the two Grand Slams (US Open 2019 and 2020) he has played so far, his form in Australia has been poor at best. The 23-year-old failed to make it through the qualifiers of the 2018 and 2020 Australian Opens.
In 2016, Nagal could only make it to the Round of 16 at an ATP Challenger Tour tournament held in Canberra. In the same year, he was ousted in the semi-final stage in Blacktown and the quarter-final in the Wollongong event – both lower-ranked ITF events.
“It's great that Sumit has a wildcard for the Australian Open. I think the hard court at Melbourne Park suits him. He has done well at the hard courts in the US Opens,” Vishnu Vardhan told the Times of India.
Vishnu Vardhan is an Olympian and reached the men’s doubles Round of 16 with Leander Paes at the 2012 London Games. He also won the mixed doubles silver medal with Sania Mirza at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, and helped India clinch bronze in the team event there.
The 33-year-old Vardhan is a four-time national champion as well.
Another Asian Games medallist Saketh Myneni, meanwhile stated, “Sumit is looking fresh and he's mentally ready for the tour.”
An Arjuna Awardee, Myneni won the men’s doubles silver medal at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, and partnered Sania to win the mixed doubles gold at that edition.
Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams favourites
Both Vardhan and Myneni also offered their predictions for the Australian Open.
“It's a level playing field as all the players will be playing after a long time. Dominic Thiem's playing really well. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will be gunning for the title again. One of these three should win the title this time,” Vardhan said.
Myneni agreed that it will be a tough competition this year but placed eight-time champion Novak Djokovic as the firm favourite.
"Novak loves the Australian Open and won the title several times and has incredible experience. Rafael Nadal is also right up there. Whoever wants to win the title must overcome these two legends,” Myneni pointed out.
Both the Indian tennis players, however, concurred that Serena Williams will be the one to beat in women’s singles despite strong competition from the youngsters.