Sumit Nagal made it to the men’s singles main draw of the year’s first Grand Slam, the Australian Open, after progressing through the qualification round on Friday.

The India No 1 beat Slovakian southpaw Alex Molcan 6-4, 6-4 in the third round of the men’s singles qualifying event to reach the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time since the 2021 Australian Open.

“If I have to just put it in one sentence, I would say I'm very proud of myself,” Nagal said to a group of journalists after qualifying for the main draw.

Nagal endured a poor 2023 where he struggled to get into tournaments after falling down the ATP rankings due to injury.

“I'm coming back from where I started last year to here some month 12 months ago. I was not even getting into a Challenger qualifying barely making any points building entering tournaments barely getting a chance to play for first two months and to you know to qualify here. It's a big step for me. I have worked very hard with my team and put in a lot of hours to stay healthy,” he added.

Nagal got off to the perfect start in the match, breaking Molcan’s serve at the first time of asking and racing to a 3-0 lead. However, the Slovak roared back into the game by winning the next three games.

The set remained on serve for the next three games before Nagal broke Molcan for the second time to clinch the first set.

The second set saw both players hold their serve in the opening seven games. However, Nagal finally broke Molcan in a marathon 13-minute game to take a 5-3 lead and serve for the match.

However, the conditions had taken a toll on the Indian and he called for a medical timeout to seek treatment on his abs. The break in play helped Molcan who broke a struggling Nagal’s serve.

However, the Slovakian, serving at 4-5, was wasteful with his serve as Nagal clinched the match in the next game.

Nagal is India’s only representation in the singles main draw at the Australian Open, after Ankita Raina crashed out in the second round of the women’s singles qualifying event. Nagal will face Kazakhstan’s 31st seed Alexander Bublik in the first round.

“It'll be a quick tennis match, that's for sure,” Nagal said of his first-round match against Bublik.

“He's not looking around to rally a bit, so I need to be on my toes trying to make as many returns as possible. He's a great server, great at the back and great touch. He doesn't give you much of rhythm. So I need to be ready for that and I think he's one of those guys where every point matters in the long term.”

This is the fourth time the 26-year-old from Jhajjar has made it to the main draw of a Grand Slam. In his first main draw appearance, Nagal went down to Roger Federer in a four-set match at the 2019 US Open.

In his second main drawn appearance, at the 2020 US Open, Nagal beat USA’s Bradley Kahn in the first round before losing to eventual champion Dominic Thiem in the second round. Nagal received a main draw wild card at the 2021 Australian Open but lost to Ricardas Berankis in straight sets.

Nagal was forced to enter the qualifying draw after the All India Tennis Association refused to send his nomination for a wildcard entry.

The tennis body’s move stemmed from Nagal’s refusal to compete in India’s Davis Cup tie against Pakistan in February.

Rohan Bopanna and his Australian partner Matthew Ebden are seeded second in the men’s doubles draw and are one of the favourites to clinch the title. The men’s doubles draw also features Yuki Bhambri who has teamed up with 36-year-old Dutch player Robin Haase.

Meanwhile, N Sriram Balaji and his Romanian partner Victor Vlad Cornea are the first alternates in the men’s doubles draw.