India’s No 1 tennis player, Sumit Nagal has revealed that he is left with just Rs 80,000 in his bank account and has a feeling of leading a gloomy life in the future after arranging a sustenance budget of Rs 1 crore that will help him keep going in the ATP Tour.
Maha Tennis Foundation :
Sumit Nagal has been training at Nansel Academy in the last few years but the lack of funds made him unable to train at his favourite place for the first three months of 2023. His friends Somdev Devvarman and Christopher Marcuis helped him stay in shape in January and February before he finally managed to fund his stay in Germany. He also invested all his ATP prize money, IOCL salary and the support he gets from Maha Tennis Foundation so that he can go on and play in the ATP Tour. The expenditure is related to his stay at the training centre in Peine and his travel for tournaments along with either his coach or a physio.
“If I look at my bank balance, I have what I had at the beginning of the year. It is 900 euros (approx ₹80,000). I did get a bit of help. Mr Prashant Sutar is helping me with MAHA Tennis Foundation and I also get monthly (salary) from IOCL but I don’t have any big sponsor,” Nagal told PTI in an interview.
“I am investing whatever I am making. The yearly cost where I travel with one coach is costing me around 80 lakh to 1 crore and that is just with one travelling 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 past few years. I am the only player to qualify for Grand Slams, only player to win a (tennis) match at the Olympics (Tokyo) in last few years, and still the government has not added my name to the TOPS.
“I felt when my ranking dropped after injury, no one wanted to help me, no one really believed that I could be back. That was disappointing because I feel whatever I do is not enough. It’s so hard to find financial support in India. To be honest I do not know what to do, I have given up.”
Nagal has played 24 tournaments this year in which he has earned upto 65 lakhs with his biggest cheque worth almost 19 lakhs coming from the US Open where he lost in the first round of the qualifiers. Sumit Nagal’s racquet, shoes and apparel needs are currently being taken care of by Yonex and Asics.
Apart from monetary challenges, Sumit Nagal also had to undergo a hip surgery last year and contracted COVID twice last year which hampered his performance. “Rehab took six months, then coming back to play took another six months. I would say I took a year-and-a-half, just to feel okay,” Nagal said.
“It was in mid-summer last year when I started feeling better. I lost a few matches I should have won, I lost matches from match-points or when serving for a match and when I was a set and a break up. 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 can not say I live a very good life or where I say I don’t need to work. I did not earn anything in the last two years so I am happy that I am breaking even. At least I am not in minus where I have to leave academy and travel on my own.”
Nagal said his coaches advised him to save money and then get back to Germany. “I sat with Sasha Nansel (his coach) and Milos (his fitness trainer). They said you do a few things yourself and try to save as much money as possible in India and we start again in April again,” said Nagal. “I travel with one of the two, and this is just the basic. I am not saying I want to stay at a five star hotel, nothing like that, this is just the basic,” he added.
A look at the ATP singles chart shows that Nagal is the best-ranked Indian at 159. The next best is Sasikumar Mukund, way back at 407. “We lack funding, we lack the system. If there is a system, there will be funding. China has money. We have potential like China. Why do we win just 5-6 medals in Olympics but China won 38 gold (in Tokyo),” questioned Sumit Nagal.
“We are 1.4 billion, we can match them in talent but why we do not make it to high level? The guidance is missing. In tennis, we are far away from competing at top.” “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 big leap),” said Nagal.
Opinion : This state of affairs and the fund crunch faced by athletes, especially by Tennis players in India is not something new and the fact that the No 1 Tennis player of the country has to go through all this tells us the sorry state of affairs the Sports Ministry and the All India Tennis Association is in. While some sports started getting more funds allotted due to their recent success and trends (for which they should get due credit), Tennis seems to be forgotten by the Ministry and allotting funds does not seem to be a priority neither for the government, nor the All India Tennis Association seems to be keen on getting funds for the development of its players. It feels somehow that the government and the officials are only happy to take credit and congratulate the players for his good performance but are not ready to take responsibility for the welfare of the players.
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