In his first two Grand Slam main draw appearances Sumit Nagal was pitted against two of the biggest names in the game - Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem. Now, while speaking to the media ahead of his main draw debut at next week's Australian Open, Nagal said he has a sneaky feeling he'll run into another top 10 player in Melbourne.
As a wildcard entrant into the main draw, Sumit Nagal could face off against any of the other 127 players in the field. But the Indian is looking forward to the challenge, as he believes he has a lot to learn from the accomplished stars of the sport.
"Lot of players play better when they are up against really really good players. It happens a lot in almost every sport," Sumit Nagal said. "For me, it's what I learn from them. I love playing someone who's top 10 so I just get to learn things from them. The way they do things on the court. They way they have evolved their games."
In a sport obsessed by ranking positions and match wins, Sumit Nagal is not putting too much pressure on himself when it comes to results. Instead, he is hoping to improve on a regular basis, and let the results take care of themselves.
"(I am hoping) Just to play a good match (at the Australian Open). You can't say I want to make the quarterfinals without even looking at the draw," the Indian responded when asked of his expectations at the Australian Open. "I just wanna play and get better. I'm not looking through rounds. I just want to be there, enjoy, and try to play my best tennis possible."
Sumit Nagal is among the fortunate players to have been placed in soft quarantine in Melbourne, which means he was allowed to train for a few hours every day outside his hotel room. And the Indian, who lost his opening round match at this week's Murray River Open, doesn't wish to complain about the situation.
Instead, Nagal claimed he was happy to be back on the courts after a much-needed break at the end of 2020.
"I would have liked to play some more tournaments (going into the Australian Open)," Nagal said. "Unfortunately, I had to end my last season much earlier. Then, I tried coming back but I wasn't ready yet. That was the sad part about it. I am trying to practice as much as possible. I am trying to get better every day so I'm ready for the Australian Open."
"I had a really good break which I took in November, I needed it," the 23-year-old added. "I feel very happy to be back on the court, even though I had a tough loss yesterday. I'm happy that I'm here, I have 10 more months to go to have a chance to play in the tournaments."
I would love to have Dominic Thiem's intensity in my game: Sumit Nagal
Sumit Nagal, who is accompanied only by his coach for the long trip to Melbourne, went on to talk about what he learned while competing against champions of the sport such as Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem.
"What I learnt form him (Roger Federer) is how he understands himself and how he reads the game," Nagal said. "He'll never make the same mistake twice. He's that good."
The Indian, who credits his parents as well as mentor Mahesh Bhupathi and the Virat Kohli Foundation for helping him in his tennis journey, also revealed he is a big fan of newly crowned US Open champion Dominic Thiem.
Sumit Nagal would, in fact, love to incorporate the Austrian's intensity into his own game.
"I would like to play the way he (Dominic Thiem) plays," Nagal said. "He's got a really sold backhand. He's serving very smart, and good forehand, and he's moving (great) and his intensity is very very high. That's what I would love to have in my game. That is what I am trying to work on."
"What I'm lacking is probably the way he practices," the Indian added. "His intensity is very very high. He makes sure whatever he does, he does it right. He is very disciplined on court.. We don't see him putting up any bad behavior in practice or in matches."
Sumit Nagal will be seen in action at the Melbourne Slam next week. Fans in India can watch the Australian Open live on Sony Pictures Sports Networks from 8 February 2021.