Karan Prashant Saxena
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
In the first week of March, Indian tennis star Sumit Nagal reached the Riverside County community of Indian Wells in California to participate in the BNP Paribas Open, along with several other big names including the 17-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal. The tournament was set to begin on 11th March (Wednesday), but two days before the start, the organisers of the event announced that it has been postponed for six weeks after county officials declared a public health emergency with the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic.
A miffed Nagal took to Twitter and questioned the authorities for not postponing the tournament earlier. The 25-year-old had to travel back to Peine in Germany, where he is currently settled in. Speaking to Hindustan Times in an exclusive telephonic chat from Peine, Nagal recalled his return to Germany from California, as the COVID-19 cases started multiplying all over the world.
“I had gone for the Indian Wells when the situation aggravated. They decided they will postpone the tournament for six weeks, so I returned to Germany. At the time, it was okay to buy tickets, so I came here quite comfortably,” he said.
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“I was not placed in self-quarantine upon my arrival in Germany. But, two days later, a nationwide shutdown was imposed in the country,” he added.
Sumit’s family is currently situated in Delhi, where nearly 600 cases were reported as of Thursday (April 9). In Germany, nearly 113,000 cases have been reported in the country as of Thursday, with just over a 100 cases reported in Peine as of Sunday last week (April 5). Sumit keeps in regular touch with his parents, and admits, everyone is worried these days about the situation.
“Germany is my base, it has kind of become like my second home. I kind of feel alright here, with my team. Of course, I speak to my family almost every day. I think everyone is worried about everyone these days, so there is nothing new about that,” he says.
Being at Nensel Tennis Academy brings its own shares of benefits for Sumit. He is in a safe, closed environment, where he gets a proper diet. There are fitness centers around the academy and tennis courts, where he continues to train and work on being fit and healthy.
“I am still working out, keeping it as sufficient as possible, and trying to be healthy. It is a lockdown, so yes, I cannot leave the academy. Fortunately, since I live at the Academy, so for me, the tennis court, and a fitness gym is right inside. So it is okay for me where I can stay safe, and do stuff and not go out,” he said.
With a lot of free time on his hand, Sumit tries to remain in a positive mind frame and not let himself get affected by the situation. To do so, he plays online video games with his friends and listens to music. “I have a lot of friends, who are online all the time, so I keep on playing with them. Just trying to enjoy the break we have, and not think too much about the negative energy. Plus music is always there with me – Hip-Hop, R&B, Deep House and Bollywood songs.”
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Sometimes, the tennis star also watches an episode or two of some TV shows but has not been able to watch a movie or read a book amid lockdown. He recently saw Swiss maestro Roger Federer’s video on social media, in which he was practicing alongside a wall. Nagal says, he is, too, trying to do as much practice as possible.
“I saw Federer’s video. I am not doing a similar ‘wall-practice’. But I am trying to do as much as possible, in these unusual circumstances.”
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) April 9, 2020
Staying healthy and taking precautions has become a priority for him at the moment. “I am keeping myself just like in a lockdown, I don’t go out, don’t do anything. I am trying to eat healthy. I am trying to keep myself fit. I keep washing hands as much as possible. I am taking a lot of showers. I am keeping the room clean. Just trying to have a very clean environment around me.”
With all the tennis tournaments cancelled till July now, Nagal admits it is difficult to keep oneself motivated, not knowing when they will get a chance to play next.
“It’s pretty tough to stay motivated in these times. It’s not easy, not knowing when you are going to get a chance to play next. I am trying to keep it day-by-day. I am trying to have smaller goals, and not think too much about the future,” he says.
For the first time since World War II, the Wimbledon tournament was cancelled this year due to COVID-19 crisis. Nagal calls it’s a huge disappointment but adds that health is most important as of now. “It’s pretty disappointing to hear that a Slam has been cancelled in a year. These are the biggest tournaments in a calendar year. Every player looks forward to them, hoping to keep themselves ready for it, planning they are going to do this, and that.”
He adds: “The Slams help you financially big times. Especially, at these times, when everyone is losing money, the tournaments are getting cancelled, the economy is bad. So, at these times, Wimbledon getting cancelled is really sad. But, health is most important in this world right now. There is nothing bigger than family members or your friends being safe at this moment,” he signs off.
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