He dreams of playing 'God' at Arthur Ashe Arena: Nagal playing Federer at the US Open
NEW YORK: Getting a dream debut in Grand Slam for himself, Indian tennis player Sumit Nagal Configure the United States Open first round against one of the best players of all time: the legendary Roger Federer .
When Nagal stepped on the field to face Brazilian Joao Menezes in the final qualifying round, he would not have thought that a victory would face him a world superstar, who has 20 Grand Slam titles in his name.
Nagal lost the first set but regrouped to win 5-7, 6-4 and 6-3 over the Brazilian in two hours and 27 minutes.
The 22-year-old has become the fifth Indian male player to participate in a Grand Slam main draw in this decade.
Somdev Devvarman, Yuki Bhambri , Saketh Myneni and Prajnesh Gunneswaran are the only ones who played in Majors singles between 2010 and the present. Nagal will face the great Swiss on Monday at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Nagal had also become the sixth Indian player to win a Grand Slam junior title in 2015 when he won the Wimbledon doubles with Nam Hoang Ly of Vietnam.
It means a lot. Everyone dreams of this. I played well in the Qualifiers. Each game meant something, had some history with all of them. It was a roller coaster. Of course, I am super happy. I don't even know what to say, Nagal told PTI.
It will be a great opportunity to play against Roger at Arthur Ashe Stadium. It is probably the best thing that could have happened. I hoped I could play Roger one day. He is the god of tennis, so yes, I'm looking forward to it, Nagal added.
Now India will have two players in the Grand Slam main draw for the first time since 1998, when the legends Leander Paes & Mahesh Bhupathi He competed in the Wimbledon.
Prajnesh is set to clash with Cincinnati Masters winner & world number five Russian Daniil Medvedev, who conquered Novak Djokovic during his triumph for the title.
Nagal came into the United States Open qualifiers confident, backed by terrific results during the Clay court season.
Consistent results on the Challenger Circuit meant that he broke into the top-200 for the first time in his career & has now earned himself a chance to play a match which every tennis player dreams of.
He had started the year outside the 350 bracket & had to overcome a difficult period, encountering injuries but came back strong.
India's Davis Cup captain Mahesh Bhupathi , who was first to spot Nagal's talent & took him under his wings to provide support, said it's career-defining moment for the 22-year from Jhajjar.
"Sumit has been unlucky with injuries & has worked very hard to get back to this level. Playing Roger at the US open at night is every qualifiers dream & nightmare & I think this experience will both be a confidence booster & a career-defining moment for him," Bhupathi told PTI, reacting to Nagal's Grand Slam debut.
So what does Nagal need to do to not feel overwhelmed when he finds Federer on the court?
"He needs to enjoy the moment & go for his shots," suggested Bhupathi.
Nagal, who won his first Challenger title in Bangalore in 2017, could not take advantage of that success. He blamed the change in support staff for the poor results, as he was eliminated from 16 tournaments in the first round after the Bengaluru Open title maximum.
But he later he began to train with Serbian coach Milos Galecic at Paine in Germany & results have started to show. Somdev -- one of the best counter punchers India has produced -- had also trained with Milos.
Somdev said Nagal, who won the Wimbledon men's doubles title in 2015, deserves applause because he overcame many problems to stay where he is today.
"What he has done is incredible. You don't look at results as proof. You go back a year or two to see. you have seen a year back he had a horrible shoulder problem. Then the ranking system changed & he could not play a lot of Challengers. So the credit has to go to the player. One big change he made was being disciplined," Somdev told PTI.
He hired a fantastic coaching staff. Milos was also my physical trainer. The progress that is seen is a testament to the hard work he has done in the last two years with his team, Somdev said.
His best (years) in tennis is ahead of him. He has been a good boy, whether he made mistakes or not.