Verona freshman Naisha Nagpal keeps a notebook she writes in before every match.
She writes opponents’ weaknesses and strengths in her notebook before a match.
“I’m taking those mental notes,” Nagpal said. “Sometimes I write it on my phone or in my notebook.”
She has become an instant force since she took the court for the Wildcats this season.
Nagpal (30-4) enters the WIAA Division 1 state tournament as the eighth seed in the No. 1 singles bracket and she earns a first-round bye. She will play the winner of Madison West sophomore Grace Qian (20-13) and Oconomowoc senior Juliet Hussey (12-20) in a second-round match on Thursday, Oct. 14, at Nielsen Tennis Stadium at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
She has eight years of tennis notes built up since she first started the sport. She recalls her father watching tennis and getting her involved in the sport.
Nagpal started playing tennis when she was 7. She started playing in USTA tournaments at 8.
“My dad really wanted me to get into tennis,” Nagpal said. “He’s the only reason I’m here right now.”
Early on, she received tutelage from her father and later her brother.
Nagpal and her family have a tennis connection. Her father plays tennis. Her older brother, Kush Nagpal, a 2020 Verona Area High School graduate, played tennis.
Nagpal said her father has helped her get tennis lessons and paid for her to attend academies in Florida.
“He’s just really dedicated for me and tells me to go have fun, try your best and ignore the other players no matter how good they are.”
Nagpal travels across the Midwest playing USTA tournaments in Chicago, Indianapolis and across Ohio.
“High school tennis is so much more fun because you have a team to cheer you on,” she said.
Nagpal said she doesn’t like being at home.
“I get really bored and tennis is really fun because I get to talk to friends,” she said. “It keeps my mind off of things and it’s fun to play competitive because you can always get better. There is no perfect player. Even (Novak) Djokovic can get better at things.”
Nagpal has found a home at No. 1 singles for the Wildcats. Verona coach Mark Happel said Nagpal is always calm, cerebral and a student of the game.
“She gets into the mind of her opponent and knows what she has to do to win,” Happel said. “She moves her feet well and has great awareness.”
Nagpal said her biggest strengths are her backhand and mental part of the game.
“I know a lot of people can get frustrated if they are losing and if I’m good at keeping it together. If I’m down in a set, I will just say to myself I will say you can still come back.”
During changeovers between games, Happel said Nagpal always questions what he is seeing on the court and if there are any changes she can make during a set.
Two of the four matches Nagpal lost this year came to Madison La Follette sophomore Annalise Yang (23-3), the state champion in the alternate fall season last spring. In her first match against Yang this season, Nagpal lost in three sets, dropping a tiebreaker 10-8.
“I knew it would be a battle,” Nagpal said. “I have known Annalise for a long time and I know she’s one of the top players and she has always beat me.”
One of the other matches she lost came to Middleton’s Netra Somasundaram (27-4), who finished fifth at state last spring. Yang is seeded sixth and Somasundaram is seeded seventh at state. The top seed is Franklin freshman Kaede Usui (30-0).
Nagpal won’t play her second-round match until about 3:45 Oct. 14. Happel said Nagpal would attend school in the morning before preparing for her second-round match at state. Happel will scout the first round match between Qian and Hussey.
“The moment definitely won’t be too big for her,.” Happel said. “We want to keep it as normal for her as possible.”