Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Just four months ago, promising Indian tennis player Sumit Nagal was struggling with penury. The No.1-ranked Indian player in men’s singles was finding it hard to fund his coach and training. Sumit had just about ₹80,000 left in the bank account after investing all his savings in professional tennis. He couldn’t even train at his preferred ground due to poor financial condition.

Nagal had no sponsor also. He couldn’t even afford a personal physio. Making things worse, All India Tennis Association (AITA) didn’t give him a wild card entry for the year’s first Grand Slam in Australia as the player had decided to pull out of the Davis Cup.

The emerging Indian tennis star was forced to play in the qualifying rounds. It was a kind of do or die situation for him to advance to the main rounds. His reputation and survival as an ATP-circuit player was also at stake. He desperately needed to win some matches in the qualifying rounds. The prize money for participating in the qualifying rounds was $31,250. If he won the first qualifying match, it would rise to $44,100 and another victory would fetch him $65,000.

Despite all kinds of struggle and financial constraint, Nagal was determined to make it big. He fought valiantly to win three tough matches on the trot to enter the main rounds of the Australian Open 2024. This also ensured him a prize money of at least $120,000. 

Then the unseeded World No. 137, punched way above his weight to knock out the World No.27. He stunned Bublik, the lanky Kazakh seeded 31st in the tournament, in straight games 6-4, 6-2, 7-6. In the process, he became the first Indian men’s tennis player in 35 years to beat a seeded athlete in a Grand Slam. This was also the first time an Indian player would participate in the second round of the men’s singles at the Australian Open since Somdev Devvarman in 2013.

Apart from the historical achievement, the fledgling star also ensured prize money of $180,000 for him. Nagal will next lock horns with wildcard Juncheng Shang of China in the second round of men’s singles. If he wins, he will pocket at least $255,000. It is not that much sufficient to put an end Nagal’s penury as a professional tennis player. However, it will give him a golden chance to brighten his future.