Only 900 Euros in My Account, Not Enjoying a Lavish Life”: India’s Top Tennis Player Sumit Nagal

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After carefully managing a sustenance budget of Rs one crore to sustain his ATP Tour career, India’s top tennis player, Sumit Nagal, finds himself with less than Rs one lakh in his bank account, grappling with a sense of dissatisfaction regarding his quality of life. For several years, Nagal has been training at the Nansel Tennis Academy in Germany. However, due to financial constraints, he was unable to continue training at his preferred location for the first three months of the 2023 season.

During January and February, his friends Somdev Devvarman and Christopher Marquis helped him stay in shape before he could secure the funds needed to continue his training in Germany.

This financial challenge is a recurring theme for many Indian tennis players. It is disheartening that the country’s top singles player struggles to save enough money for himself and his family. This situation highlights the inadequate support system and the demanding nature of the tour, where players often face their battles alone.

To compete on the high-profile ATP Tour, Nagal has invested all his prize money, his salary from IOCL, and the support he receives from the Maha Tennis Foundation. These expenses cover his training center stay in Peine and travel expenses for tournaments, along with either his coach or a physiotherapist.

Sumit Nagal shared in an interview, “If I look at my bank balance, I have what I had at the beginning of the year. It is 900 euros (approximately Rs 80,000). I did get a bit of help. Mr. Prashant Sutar is helping me with MAHA Tennis Foundation, and I also receive a monthly salary from IOCL, but I don’t have any major sponsors.”

Nagal’s equipment needs, including racquets, shoes, and apparel, are provided by Yonex and ASICS.

In the current year, Nagal has earned around 65 lakhs from 24 tournaments, with his largest paycheck coming from the US Open, where he reached the first round of the Qualifiers and earned USD 22,000 (approximately Rs 18 lakhs).

He lamented, “I am investing whatever I am making. The yearly cost of traveling with one coach is costing me around 80 lakhs to 1 crore, and that is just with one traveling coach (no physio). Whatever I have made, I have already invested. I feel like I am lacking support despite being India’s number one player for the past few years.”

Nagal expressed his disappointment in the lack of recognition and financial support from the government, despite his achievements as the only Indian player to qualify for Grand Slams and win a tennis match at the Olympics in recent years.

The son of a primary school teacher in Punjabi Bagh, Nagal faced off-court challenges last year when he underwent hip surgery and contracted COVID-19 multiple times. These setbacks led to doubts about his return to competitive tennis.

He explained, “Rehab took six months, and coming back to play took another six months. I would say I took a year-and-a-half, just to feel okay. I got COVID twice last year, so I had long, long two years. I don’t have anything in savings. I am just breaking even. I cannot say I live a very good life.”

Nagal further revealed that his coaches advised him to save money and then return to Germany to resume his training. He emphasized that his financial needs are basic, not extravagant, and that he is not seeking luxury.

Currently ranked at 159 in the ATP singles chart, Sumit Nagal is the highest-ranked Indian player. The next highest-ranked Indian player, Sasikumar Mukund, lags far behind at 407. Prajnesh Gunneswaran, who is currently out of action, is ranked at 540, followed by Digvijay Pratap Singh (554) and Ramkumar Ramanathan (569).

Nagal’s frustration extends beyond financial concerns to the lack of a support system and guidance for Indian singles players. He believes that with the right support and a robust system, Indian tennis has the potential to compete at the highest level.

He concluded by saying, “I am improving. I do feel I have the game. If my body is good and I am playing tournaments, I feel I am ready for a big leap.”

Sumit Nagal’s story highlights the challenges faced by Indian tennis players in their pursuit of excellence and the need for a more supportive system to nurture and develop talent in the country.


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