As Leander Paes and Sania Mirza were on their way to their respective Wimbeldon victories, a certain 17 year old boy was writing his name in the history books simultaneously. Sumit Nagal became an overnight star and a source of inspiration for the billion plus people in India after winning the Wimbeldon junior doubles title.
Sumit Nagal along with his Vietnamese partner Nam Hoang Ly defeated the fourth-seeds Reilly Opelka and Akira Santillan 7-6(4) 6-4 in the title clash. He became only the sixth Indian to win a Grand Slam Junior title. Though the victory acted as a source of inspiration for tennis enthusiasts across India, the road to becoming a star in the sport isn’t an easy one.
Speaking at the launch of the Inter School Tennis Challenge, the CEO of Mahesh Bhupathi Tennis Academies and a two time Asian gold medalist, Gaurav Natekar said, “Junior players do exceptionally well in whatever opportunities they get, but the major roadblock for them comes in the form of procuring sponsorships, to enable them to travel abroad and play in even more tournaments.”
When asked where he saw room for improvement, he said, “The coaching standards are not very high, there is a dearth of good coaches across India. Even the coaches who are doing well at mentoring the youngsters do not get enough credit. At MBTA we take care of the kids completely till the age of thirteen and fourteen but after that parents take over
Natekar believes that Sumit Nagal’s victory at Wimbeldon can be a catalyst for a lot of youngsters interested in tennis. He said, “Sumit’s victory could prove to be a blessing in disguise for a sort of tournament we are going to host. Young kids should take inspiration from his journey, he himself deserves more recognition and further encouragement from everyone even the media.”
Though the number of tennis courts accessible to junior players might have gone up over the past few years but there is no doubt that still a lot of work the needs to be done. With three titles at a single Grand Slam the future for Indian tennis is looking bright now it’s just a matter providing these kids with a proper structure to grow.