One set up
At 22, Sumit Nagal is the only Indian player to have taken a set from Federer, with Somdev Devvarman and Rohan Bopanna both having lost to the Swiss in straight sets
"It's never easy to come out and play your best. Even though it's kind of what you live for, you dream about, playing on the big stage. I think he did that very well and has a solid career ahead," said Roger Federer as Sumit Nagal goes down fighting in his Grand Slam debut.
Displaying tremendous guts and resilience in the qualifiers at the Flushing Meadows, he got the better of higher-ranked opponents in Tatsuma Ito and Peter Polansky before rebounding from a 1-4 deficit to edge past Joao Menezes of Brazil in New York. Nagal had managed to set a dream date with Federer last Sunday after securing a main draw berth at a Grand Slam for the very first time in his career.
Sumit Nagal was born to teacher Suresh Nagal and his wife Krishna Devi, a homemaker, on August 14, 1997. Hailing from Jhajjar village of Haryana, Nagal started training in tennis at the age of eight at a local sports club. His association with Mahesh Bhupathi helped his most in chalking out his tennis career. When Bhupathi was holding trials for students in his academy in 2007, Nagal was one of the three selected.
In 2015, 17-year-old Nagal and Nam Hoang Ly of Vietnam teamed up to win the boys' doubles title at the Wimbledon, enlivening many Asian dreams – that accomplishment also made Nagal the sixth Indian to taste glory at a junior Grand Slam
Come the big day and Nagal didn't shy away from admitting himself as the underdog against the man who is often referred as 'God of Tennis'. The 22-year-old didn't hold back in expressing himself. He said, "I don't care what commentators will be saying about me on TV. I'm going to be enjoying the crowd, playing the best tennis player ever. I'm just some dude from India. I'm fine with that until I make my name."
With a defensive game aided by great composure, Nagal started on an impressive note. He trailed 0-2, but managed to take advantage of a slew of Federer misses to eventually win the first set – becoming the first Indian singles' player to take the first set against the 20-time Grand Slam champion. This was also the first time that Federer has lost the opening set in the first round of a Grand Slam. Despite making 14 unforced errors in the second set, the Swiss managed to dominate the second, third as well as the fourth set.
The rising Indian had turned a corner since April. He started that month placed 350 in the ATP rankings but has nearly cut his ranking in half since then to arrive in New York at a career-high standing of 190.
After reaching five Challenger semi-finals in two months, Nagal then qualified for his first ATP Tour main draw last month in Hamburg. He was three down from his previous attempts at breaking into a Grand Slam but, this time, he weathered three quality opponents in the qualifying draw for this latest breakthrough moment.
Sumit Nagal gave a spirited performance before going down against the great 6-4, 1-6, 2-6, 4-6 at the iconic Arthur Ashe stadium. After the promising effort, Nagal said he was aiming to crack into the top-100 in order to play the ATP Tour level events more regularly. Though he lost the match to Federer, he has managed to win a million hearts with motivating display of grit and determination.