• Tuesday, March 05, 2024

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How Kohli helped Indian tennis star Sumit Nagal, who made history at Australian Open 2024, survive

The 26-year-old said if people fund athletes, it will only help the sport flourish in India and that he is fortunate to get that support from the ace cricketer.

Indian tennis player Sumit Nagal in action. (Photo by KELD NAVNTOFT/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

SUMIT Nagal, India’s top-ranked tennis player in singles, created history on Tuesday (16) when he became his country’s first player to beat a seeded opponent in the Australian Open since 1989. The 137th ranked Indian defeated Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik, ranked 110 places before him, 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 to advance to the second round.

Nagal, who was left with not much money in his bank account at one point last year, thanked ace India cricketer Virat Kohli and his foundation for helping him in his difficult days. Speaking with the Bombay Times in an interview, Nagal said Kohli’s foundation has been supporting him since 2017. He added that he has not performed well for the last two years and was facing economic hardships.

“If I didn’t have Virat Kohli supporting me, I don’t know what I would have done,” the Haryana-born tennis player said in the interview.

Read: In cricket-fanatic India, country’s No.1 tennis player Sumit Nagpal has less than £800 in account

Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

“Early this year (in 2019), when I was flying from Canada to Germany after a tournament, I had six dollars in my wallet… just six dollars after the help that I have been getting, so imagine what a mess I must have been before. But I survived, and things are getting better. If people fund athletes, it will only help the sport flourish in the country. I am fortunate to get that support from Virat,” he added.

Read: India’s Sumit Nagal wins Tampere Open tennis title

However, it was not the first time that Nagal won the first-round match at a Grand Slam event. In the 2020 US Open, he defeated the USA’s Bradley Klahn in the opening round but lost to Dominic Thiem of Austria, the eventual champion, in the second round.

Nagal secured a cheque of at least A$180,000 ($119,016) by winning his first-round game against Bublik. “Obviously, I’m not crying right now but at the same time it hasn’t completely sunk in,” the 26-year-old told reporters.

“These moments you’ll go through as an athlete. Sometimes you have a good year, sometimes a bad one.

“Last year was probably one of the best years … (from having only) 900 euros, not getting into events for the first few months and relying on wild cards … to finishing inside the top 130.

“From where I started, I was pretty proud of myself to be able to give myself another chance to be here, to qualify and play a second round. It’s a good feeling.”

Nagal, who wanted to become a cricketer like most kids that grow up in India but became a tennis player instead on his teacher’s insistence, is the second Indian in 35 years to win a Grand Slam singles draw against a seeded player. In 1989, Ramesh Krishnan beat defending champions Mats Wilander at Melbourne Park.

Nagal, who won two qualifying matches to reach the Australian Open, will take on China’s Shang Juncheng, ranked lower than him, in the next round on Thursday (18).

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