India's number one tennis player, Sumit Nagal, is left with less than Rs one lakh in his bank account after nearly exhausting the sustenance budget of Rs one crore that keeps him going on the ATP Tour, according to news agency PTI.
Nagal has invested most of his prize money, his salary from Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) and the financial support he gets from Maha Tennis Foundation to continue on the ATP Tour. Most of the money is spent on his stay at the training centre in Peine and his travel arrangements, along with either his coach or physio.
Before he finally managed to fund his stay in Germany, Nagal's friends Somdev Devvarman and Christopher Marquis helped him stay in shape in January and February.
"If I look at my bank balance, I have what I had at the beginning of the year. It is 900 euros (approx Rs 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.
Yonex and ASICS are sponsoring Nagal's shoes and apparel needs.
"Whatever I have made I have already invested"
Nagal said: “I am investing whatever I am making. The yearly cost when I travel with one coach is costing me around Rs 80 lakh to Rs 1 crore and that is just with one travelling coach (no physio)."
Nagal has earned about Rs 65 lakh this year after playing in 24 tournaments. His biggest pay cheque came in the US Open where he earned $22,000 (approx Rs 18 lakh).
Nagal said that despite being India's number-one ranked player for the past few years, he feels that he has not been supported. The government has not added his name to the TOPS, despite being the only player to qualify for Grand Slams and the only Indian player to win a tennis match at the Olympics (Tokyo), he added.
Nagal faced off-court challenges last year when he underwent hip surgery and contracted Covid-19 a couple of times.
"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 said in the interview.
Nagal told PTI that he has nothing in savings and is just breaking even. He was happy that he was breaking even as he was not in minus, where he would have to leave the academy and travel on his own.
He is the best-ranked Indian player at 159. The next best is Sasikumar Mukund, way back at 407. Prajnesh Gunneswaran is ranked number 540, followed by Digvijay Pratap Singh at 554.
Nagal also said that Indian singles players lack funding and guidance. "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 the Olympics, but China won 38 gold (in Tokyo)," he said. "We are 1.4 billion, we can match them in talent but why we do not make it to a high level? The guidance is missing in tennis, we are far away from competing at the top."