If I didn't have Virat supporting me, I don't know what I would have done: Sumit Nagal
Roger Federer can not have fun with the joke of Nagal-Nadal told in the United States Open , but Nagal really likes Nadal, and that makes him interesting. For those who were late, the 22-year-old tennis player from India Sumit Nagal had a dream Grand Slam debut on August 27 as he played against Federer in the first round of the ongoing United States Open . Sumit went down fighting 6-4, 1-6, 2-6, 4-6 against the formidable 20-time Grand Slam champion. However, Sumit also emerged as the first Indian to take a set off Roger Federer , a feat that won hearts across the nation. A day after the much-talked-about match, Sumit spoke to us from the US about this golden opportunity, the challenges he had faced and the road ahead. Excerpts:
Facing Roger Federer in the first round of a Grand Slam is no mean feat. What crossed your mind when you got to know about your legendary opponent?
When I got to know that I will be playing Roger Federer in the first round, I was thrilled and extremely happy. I couldn't have asked for anything better. The energy I had in the days leading to this match was insane. I didn't want to say it, but I was eager to play against him. I just wanted to be out there playing Tennis against someone who has done so much for the game. He is a great ambassador of the sport and this was a brilliant opportunity. It wasn't easy. I had to qualify three rounds to play him and play on a surface that I haven't played on for the past six months. A lot of things weren't in my favor, while some things went just the way I was hoping they would. It was an amazing experience. It was a good week and a good tournament for me.
Before walking on the court, did you think you could beat Federer?
It was more about enjoying the time I spent there, playing for myself, my family and my country. There was already enough pressure to enter, so I didn't want to push myself too hard thinking about the outcome of the game.
Considered as the CABRA (the greatest of all time), what was the biggest challenge of playing Federer?
There is no way you can compare us, but what I needed most was the experience. He has been playing for many years, and that has allowed him to develop a great sense of when to do what. I guess that only comes with experience and I have a long way to go.
Not only have you played against the Swiss champion, but against his sea of more than 20,000 loyal fans at the Arthur Ashe Stadium. Was that a challenge? He must have felt like swimming against the current ...
There is nothing you can do about it. When you're on the court, you can't focus on who the people applaud. You just have to play your game. It wasn't easy for me, but you don't have those opportunities when you play in front of 20,000 people. They may not be a majority in the stadium, but I am also aware of the great support I received from people at home. The goal is to play bigger tournaments that attract the crowd.
For a young player like you, how difficult it is not to feel intimidated by someone like Federer, who is a master of his trade. How did you retain your nerves?
Of course, he has won a lot of tournaments, but in the end, you are on the same court hitting the same ball, so you can't get intimidated by your opponent. If you let that happen, you lose your chance to win. He is also in it to win. Once you are on the court, your opponent is just your opponent. At that moment, he ceases to be Roger Federer.
You won the first set. What went wrong after that?
I let my concentration go down a bit. At first there were some closed games, but once he broke my services, he got the leadership and then played better tennis that led to his victory.
Did you talk to Federer? Any advice from him?
I couldn't talk to him, but he talked to my coaches and my team after the game. Unless you're a good friend of a player, you don't really talk to your opponent before a game. However, there is much to learn from him, what I did during the game. The way he stays calm and never loses his focus is surprising.
Did you grow up idolizing it?
I love watching Rafael Nadal play. His intensity and hunger to win is crazy. Even at this age, after winning 18 Grand Slams, he doesn't want to give a single point. It would be a dream come true to play against him.
In India, the headlines focused on how Federer won the match, but you won the hearts and how you are the only Indian who has released a set of Federer. That should be encouraging ...
It was nice to hear all that, but I think I could have done better and I will definitely do it in the future. As of 190, it should be 170 or 172 in the ranking now. Every tournament I play, my game will continue to improve.
virat Kohli It plays a special role in your career, doesn't it?
virat Kohli's foundation has been supporting me since 2017. I haven't been performing well for the last two years and was facing a financial crisis. If I didn't have virat Kohli supporting me, I don't know what I would have done. Earlier this year, when I was flying from Canada to Germany after a tournament, I had six dollars in my wallet ... just six dollars after the help that I have been getting, so imagine what a mess I must have been before. But I survived, and things are getting better. If people fund athletes, it will only help the sport flourish.
We had some great players like Vijay Amritraj , but it is rare for Indian players to make it big when it comes to individual championships. Your thoughts?
A lot of things are missing. For me, the way tennis is taught in India is also a problem. Don't get me wrong, things are getting better, but it takes time when you want to change things. The game has changed, and we lack facilities and good support in India. It is an expensive sport, so you must invest a lot and not many people are doing it. In addition, it is a long-term investment. When you travel, you need support staff, physical therapists, etc. We lack the required infrastructure, but I hope this changes.