He has realised the downside of having a fiery temper and steadily-rising tennis player Sumit Nagal is focussing on anger management to succeed, even though his mentor Mahesh Bhupathi feels a “feisty personality” is no crime if results are coming.
Nagal achieved the biggest success of his career by winning the USD 100,000 ATP Challenger in Bengaluru, courtesy which he leapfrogged to the then career-best rank of 223.
The hard-working 20-year-old from Haryana then qualified for the Tata Open Maharashtra, his maiden ATP World Tour event and in the latest rankings he is placed at a career-best 216.
Nagal said his recent good performances have had a lot to do with hard yards put in for improvement in both physical and mental aspects of the game.
“I have got stronger, compared to last year. Mentally, I am much much better. Last year, I lost many matches where I gave up or got mad for few minutes where I did not realise that I have already lost 4-5 games.
“This year, it has got better. I am controlling my emotions, not letting it affect my games,” Nagal told PTI in an interaction, assessing his 2017 season.
Often Nagal, who has shown good retrieving skills, is seen either arguing with the chair umpire after being at the receiving end of questionable calls or getting upset at himself during matches.
“In practise, it was always my goal that If I get mad in matches, the priority was to control myself. Take deep breaths, think about image, where you see yourself being happy. The more you practice the better you are going to get.”
Nagal admits that it’s an issue which has bothered him since his Under-12 and Under-14 days.
Asked how he became so aggressive, Nagal said, “I don’t know. That’s the way I am, because I have got a lot of anger. I get mad very quickly. I am learning to control it and put that energy, where it’s going to be useful.”
Bhupathi, who handpicked Nagal and has supported him since his junior days, is happy with the progress he has made.
“Every personality is different in sport. Sumit is definitely a feisty personality. I had talks with him. He is is a kid from Haryana. (Bjorn) Borg had a feisty personality, (John) McEnroe had a personality. We loved them because they were superstars.
“Andy Murray has a personality, he is always screaming at his box. Roger Federer has a personality, so every player has a personality and Sumit has his. As long as he is moving up the rankings and doing what we want him to do, I don’t think we can fault him,” Bhupathi told PTI after watching his match.
Nagal, at 5 feet and 10 inches, is not among the tallest players, who can consistently produce big serves, a huge weapon in the modern game.
Both Nagal and Bhupathi feel it won’t be a disadvantage.
“If people are tall, they have more reach but on the other hand shorter people are quicker and being quick on the court is not a bad thing. I don’t think me not being 6’2″, 6’3” is going to be a problem.
“At the end of the day I can’t change it. Instead of complaining about it, I am putting so much work on my fitness that it is not going to be a problem.”
Bhupathi said it should not stop Nagal from cracking the top-50, citing several examples.
“It’s definitely not an advantage but Diego Schwartzman (5’7″) is 20 in the world. There is David Goffin (5’11”), we have got Olivier Rochus (5’6″), Kei Nishikori (5’10”). If you can run and use your legs as benefit, short height should not stop you from getting into top-50.”
“His game is going in the right direction, he is only 20-year-old. We need to remember that the Indians in general peak at 23-24. He has three four years of development in him for everything — strength, tactics, mental game. We have not had many 20-year-olds at 200 in the world before in our history of tennis, so I think these are exciting times for us, for Sumit especially.”
Bhupathi also said Nagal has shown progress on many fronts.
“Over the past year or so he was very weak on defending on the backhand, which has got a lot better. His understanding of positioning on the court in last three months, has improved. The trajectory of his career is going on the right path. That’s all we can be happy about at present.”
Nagal is set to shift his training base from Germany to Valencia in Spain, where he will practise at David Ferrer’s academy.
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