Leander Paes has great expectations from Indian singles tennis stars Sumit Nagal and Ankita Raina.
Speaking to Indian newspaper Hindustan Times, Paes said he was impressed by the amount of work that both Nagal and Raina have put in over the years but the journey has just begun for them.
Paes, who on Tuesday, also launched the Australian Open in India as a part of a Tennis Australia initiative said he wasn’t surprised with Nagal’s rise this year. Nagal started year ranked 361st in the world but is now 128th on the ATP Rankings and took a set off Roger Federer in his first round match at the US Open.
And Paes creditted that improvement to his hard work apart from the fact that he already had a few of the weapons needed to succeed at that level. That included a powerful backhand that had helped him immensely.
The former Olympics medallist said:
“I could see how much talent the young boy had. After you win a junior doubles title (Nagal won 2015 Wimbledon boys’ doubles title), you’ve got to perform. And Sumit has kept on persevering. It’s not easy, especially with the amount of expense and hardships on the Tour.”
Citing his own example, Paes said he had been through the tough road of having to fend for oneself without having a lot of finances to back oneself, which was one of the reasons why he had a lot of respect for Ankita Raina as well.
26-year-old Raina, who is the number one Indian and ranked 190th in the world at the moment, is one of the fittest tennis players in the country according to Paes.
The big question now as far as Indian tennis is concerned is the way forward. Prajnesh Gunneswaran, India’s men’s singles number one is hovering around the 80th-rank mark while Nagal is aiming to break into the top 100. The step up for Gunneswaran would probably be a regular place in the main draw of ATP 250 competitions and for Nagal to get to where Gunneswaran currently is and make direct entries into Grand Slam competitions.
To be able to do that, Paes reckoned they will need to work on their weaknesses during their off time. Gunneswaran will need to improve his serve, while Nagal would have to work on his fitness if they want to get more wins under their belt.
Paes concluded the recipe to their success would be as follows:
“The mindset is huge as well, for you are all alone out there. So, sublime fitness, mental toughness, peace, decision-making and leadership qualities are the prerequisites.”