New Delhi: In 2007, a 10-year boy, Sumit Nagal, boldly walked up to doubles legend Mahesh Bhupathi during a talent hunt clinic at the DLTA courts here and demanded to know why he did not make the cut.
While everyone else at the nation’s tennis headquarters watched in stunned silence, a patient Bhupathi decided to take another look at the boy. He was impressed enough to select the kid.
Now 16 years old, Sumit has proved Bhupathi right. Currently living in Toronto and training under coach Bobby Mahal at Rexall Centre, the Delhi boy is ranked 73rd in the world among juniors and regarded as one of the bright prospects.
He had also caught the attention of legendary coach Brad Gilbert, who twitted about him “this is the boy my source was watching last year and was really impressed by…”
“Given the boy’s age and size, he definitely has a bright future,” said Mahal, a hugely respected coach in the Canadian tennis circuit.
“His movement is smooth; he covers the court well. But what I like of him is his hunger for success,” Mahal said.
Sidelined for a few weeks because of a shoulder injury, Sumit, who is still enrolled as a student in the Little Angel School in Sonepat, is not perturbed by his rankings.
“I don’t want to be one of those points chasers in the circuit,” said Sumit.
“My aim is to play stronger tournaments, against better opponents and finally, at least win one Grand Slam at the junior level before I start playing professional tennis.”
A tall target indeed. But former Davis Cupper and now a, Syed Fazaluddin, thinks “the boy has the right kind of head on his shoulders”.
“Sumit has good serve and forehand. What I like of him is his attitude. Last year, I played him in training and could feel he was trying to beat me. That’s what I liked of him. I am sure he would go far in life.”
Son of a primary school teacher in New Delhi, Sumit’s determination on the court has attracted attention. In a Grade Three ITF Juniors meet in Calcutta last year, Sumit’s victory in the final over Spain’s Albert Alcaraz Ivorra was appreciated by many former stars.
“The Spaniard is elder to me, more experienced and ranked higher. I knew the odds were against me, but finally, I managed to win in three sets…It is one of the best wins in my career,” Sumit said.
Last year, he also made the main draw of the US Open juniors, before losing to seeded Japanese player Kaichi Uchida.
Recently Sumit reached the semi-finals of the ITF Juniors tournaments in the Netherlands, Delhi and Ecuador. He also won the doubles title in the Delhi tourney.
He has been selected to represent India in the Junior Davis Cup in Mexico later this month.