Taking a set against a 20-time Grand Slam Champion definitely took the tennis fans around the world by surprise.
Sumit Nagal’s potential was first recognized by Mahesh Bhupathi and he was fortunate to get training from Bhupathi until 2012. Later Sumit moved to Canada and 3 years later moved his base to Germany. He is now training at Nensel Academy in Germany and is trained by head coach Sascha Nensel and Milos Galecic (fitness trainer).
Sumit benefitted from his move abroad as he got the opportunity to play tournaments on Challenger Circuit. Participation in these tournaments and having made to 5 semi-finals and a quarterfinal gave him 170 points this year, which boosted his ranking among the top-200.
The opportunity to play Challenger level tournaments consistently in and around Europe has been the key to his progress.
Why India fails to produce a Top class Singles Grand Slam Winner?
I don’t think India lacks talent that can be honed to produce a Grand Slam winner/s. However, there are a few key reasons contributing to our failure to produce a Top class Singles Grand Slam Winner:
Indian players struggle to move up the ranking ladder: There are not enough challenger circuit tournaments played within India to collect points. In order to collect these points, players have to travel abroad. Not everybody can afford these expensive pre-requisites for qualification. Let alone the luxury of traveling with a coach or a physio for support during their rigorous match schedules.
The European, American and Australian players do not face this problem. For instance, every year France and Italy host about 30 tournaments while Germany hosts 7 and Spain 6 competitions. Players can travel to these close by nations to participate in these competitions. Compared to this India host only 2 tournaments - TNTA in Chennai and MSLTA in Pune. India fails to allocate funds to host more circuit tournaments. No wonder these developed nations produce the maximum number of champions.
None of India’s top singles player like Prajnesh Gunneswaran (ranked 90), Yuki Bhambri and Sumit Nagal benefitted from the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) program of Sports Authority of India. Under TOPS program a sportsperson gets Rs 50,000 a month but these funds are not sufficient to cover even basic requirement for tennis training. All these players had to dig deep into their personal financial resources to afford training in Canada, Barcelona, Germany and other European countries.
Apart from this, India lacks good and easily accessible infrastructure, professional international level coaches and trainers at grass-root level, and last but not the least the funds to pursue this expensive sport on a competitive level.
If India aspires to see more players competing at Grand slam and win a Grand Slam singles title then it needs to work on providing the necessary opportunities within India and back potential talent financially.