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Can Sumit Nagal pull off a ‘Leander Paes’ at the Paris 2024 Olympics?

Can Sumit Nagal pull off a ‘Leander Paes’ at the Paris 2024 Olympics?

Leander Paes is the only Indian tennis player to win a medal at the Olympics. The legendary tennis player did so in 1996, when he beat Fernando Meligeni and claimed the bronze in singles.

Before the start of the year, many, including Sumit Nagal himself, might not have had high hopes of qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympics. But now that he’s not only breached the ATP 100 but is ranked 80th in the world, a flicker of hope for a miraculous result is on the horizon.

One can’t forget that not too long ago, Monica Puig won the gold medal in singles when she was ranked 34th in the world. No one had given her a chance, but there she was, standing at the podium. Much like Puig, Nagal doesn’t come from a country that’s had success on the tennis circuit over the last few years. Although doubles have thrived in India, singles players are far and few between.

Luckily for Nagal, the Olympics will be played on his favorite surface: clay. Although he’s found success on hard courts this year, clay has been the court that has brought the most success. Just four days ago, he became the first Indian player to win a match at the Monte Carlo Masters. With a chance to play at four events before the cutoff for the Olympics ends on June 10th, the Indian tennis ace may propel even further in the rankings.

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What stands between Sumit Nagal and the ultimate dream?

The biggest roadblock for the 26-year-old could be himself. His height (5’10) doesn’t give him an advantage while serving or help him generate power. He instead has to rely on his fitness and consistency.

The confidence he’s gained since the start of the year has seen him beat players like Corentin Moutet and Matteo Arnaldi on clay. However, he’s found little to no success against top-ranked players. Nagal had lost to Lorenzo Sonega just a week ago in Marrakech and went down to World No. 7 Holger Rune, albeit after a tough fight in the Monte Carlo Masters round of 32.

Having already sealed the berth for the French Open, he’ll be looking for the first medal by an Indian tennis player at the Olympics since Leander Paes did so in 1996. The second grand slam of the year will hold high importance for Nagal.

Apart from the tournament being his first major chance to go past the second round at the slam, it’ll also be the same venue where the Paris Olympics are held. If the 26-year-old manages to find his form at Roland Garros, he might do the unthinkable a month later, when he returns to the same court again.

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