'Emotional' Sumit Nagal lands 'super tough' win in 'terrible weather'

Sumit Nagal Al Bello/Getty Images

Barely two days since he flew into Tokyo from Hamburg after a last-minute sneak into the draw, Sumit Nagal is talking about fighting jet lag, terrible weather, how he won India's first singles Olympic match in 25 years, and his next-round opponent, world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev.

Nagal's win against former world No. 33 Denis Istomin on Saturday was also India's first since Leander Paes at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Nagal was born only a year after Paes brought home the 44-year drought ending individual Olympic medal.

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"Playing with this shirt which says 'India' on it gave me the push," says Nagal, ranked 144 in the world. "It came alive to me during the match. I was leading in the second set, serving for the match at 5-3 and to lose from there and come back in the third especially in weather like this, it's super tough.

"If I was playing a Challenger or something I don't know what I would have done to be honest. It's emotional to be in my first Olympics and to come off the court with such a result."

No stranger to fancy matchups, having famously taken a set off Roger Federer at the 2019 US Open, Nagal is up against the star of the NextGen contingent, Medvedev.

"I'm very excited to be honest. To play the world No. 2 on a big court. Can't ask for more really. It's why we play tennis, to live for these moments. I'm going to enjoy it the most." The sultry conditions in Tokyo though appear to have gotten his goat.

"The weather is terrible especially when you're playing around 12 noon it's not easy to play tennis and the long rallies. So both I and him (Istomin) were focusing on our serves, to try to be more aggressive and have shorter points and when you have a chance to hit any kind of big shots you go for it.

"The courts are pretty fast and whoever gets ahead in the rally it's tough for the one defending to make a comeback."

Nagal is also only beginning to adapt to a change in surface. He last played and lost in the first round of the Hamburg European Open, an ATP 500, on clay ten days ago. Nagal wasn't prepared for the Tokyo trip or an Olympic debut, managing a chance entry into the singles draw only last week, following a series of withdrawals.

"I got here on Wednesday afternoon, don't forget the seven-hour time difference so the jet lag was pretty intense," he says. "I hit on Thursday twice, Friday once and that was it. It was unfortunate I got in at the last minute and I couldn't prepare better. But I had to deal with them and just focus on the things I can control. I'm trying to adapt between surfaces, especially from clay to hard and when it's super-fast it's not easy to get comfortable with it. I'm happy I played a good match today when I look at the challenges I've faced to get here."