Anand Amritraj expresses concern over singles players' lack of success

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Anand Amritraj, a former Davis Cup captain, finds it worrisome that India's top singles players can't prevail in close matches on ATP World Tour despite having a strong game to support them. He says, the ability to handle pressure and make the right decisions determines the outcome of the matches.

At the Tata Open Maharashtra, Sasikumar Mukund, the top-ranked singles player in the nation, Ramkumar Ramanathan, and Sumit Nagal battled hard against higher-ranked opponents but ultimately lost and were eliminated in the first round.

All of them advanced the game to a point where either player could have prevailed but failed to score when it mattered. Ramkumar (ranked 435) lost against world number 62 Pedro Martinez despite having a one-set lead, while Mukund (ranked 340) lost to Flavio Cobolli (ranked 171) with scores of 4-6, 5-7. (6-3 5-7 3-6).

Nagal extended world number 54 Flip Krajinovic to a three-setter but lost the match as he attempted to improvise in the decider in a tight scenario. Nagal's ranking has slumped to 503 after the injury-forced layoff.

Amritraj, who led the Indian Davis Cup squad from 2013 to 2018, said to PTI, "I was very impressed with Sumit Nagal, I thought he played great; just a couple of bad choices of shots in the final set at 4-4, and that cost him the match."

"I watched Saikumar Mukund, again, very close, 6-4 7-5, a couple of shots here and there. I don't understand why our boys as well as they play, are not able to win matches on the ATP Tour. They do well in Challengers, but they need to win matches in bigger events. "Closing out matches seems to be an issue."

Manas Dhamne, 15, was given a wild card admission by the organisers and performed brilliantly. Even though he lost, he gave veteran American Michael Mmoh a strong battle without becoming overwhelmed by the situation.

Amritraj, 71, stated that although Dhamne's loss is still respectable, more seasoned athletes like Nagal and Mukund ought to be able to triumph. "The closing out of the issue is worrisome. In the case of the 15-year-old, it is a lack of experience but come to Sumit Nagal and Mukund, have played enough on the Tour to close out matches."

"Tennis, as we know, is all between the ears. Everybody has the shots, the backhand, the forehand, the volleys, and he serves at this level of the game. It's a question of how you close out the match. That all comes down to confidence or what goes inside your head. " At the business end of the set or the match, how you serve it out. It comes down to a few points here and there." According to Amritraj, it's also not a good indicator since Indian players are regularly injured.

In November 2021, Nagal underwent hip surgery; as a result, he missed almost four months of action. He had 11 first-round defeats when he began competing and is currently ranked outside of the top 500.

His greatest victory occurred in October 2022 over German Daniel Altmaier, who was rated 103 at the time, on his preferred surface (clay) (now ranked 96). Mukund previously struggled with a back condition, and in 2019 he withdrew from a Davis Cup match against Pakistan owing to a foot injury. Due to injury, Yuki Bhambri and Prajnesh Gunneswaran missed key moments in their respective careers.

"Mukund is 25. Sumit is around the same age. At this age, the number one thing is that you stay in good shape and stay fit. I am amazed at the number of injuries these young kids have nowadays. "In our generation, it hardly ever happened. I don't know if it's being physically lucky or what it is. Now you look at Yuki, he has not played much, but he was lucky to come back (from injury) and play.

"He played Davis Cup with me for five years. He is one of my favourite players, he has been off singles for some time and now playing only doubles with Saki (Saketh Myneni)."

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