Hyderabad: Haryana’s Sumit Nagal became the toast of India when he punched several times above his weight to take a set off Roger Federer, former World No.1 and 20 Grand Slam titles holder, in the first round of the US Open tennis championship in New York on Monday.
Twentyfour-year-old Nagal, playing his maiden Grand Slam tournament, stunned the five-time US Open champion by picking the first set 6-4 before the Swiss Master hit back to take the next three at 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 to wrap the match.
Their encounter was touted as a mismatch — Federer is ranked No.3 while Nagal is 190 — before the two walked into the Arthur Ashe Stadium, but the capacity crowd who had come to watch the former, was made to sit up and take notice of the spirited Sumit who had worked his way into the main draw after winning three exhaustive matches in the qualifying tournament.
Meanwhile, PTI reports that Nagal was more competitive. The 24-year-old troubled Federer quite a bit during the much-anticipated match and the Swiss legend’s problems were also compounded by his own unforced errors.
One of the game’s all-time greatest players, Federer had a word of praise for his opponent from India.
“...Of course it’s not the game that comes out with the biggest surprises. It’s really consistent. I think he did it very well tonight,” Federer said after the match.
Nagal became only the fourth Indian to win a set in the main draw of a Grand Slam in the last 20 years. What made it special was that it came against Federer, a colossal figure across all sports globally.
Only Somdev Devvarman, Yuki Bhambri and Saketh Myneni have managed to win a set in a Grand Slam main draw before Nagal, in the last two decades.
Nagal, who made the main draw through qualifying, returns from the US Open not only richer by $58,000 but also with the experience of what it takes to compete at the biggest stage.
In another first-round match featuring an Indian, Prajnesh Gunneswaran got a taste of high-level tennis, losing to world number five Daniil Medvedev in straight sets at the Flushing Meadows on Monday night.
With their losses, India’s singles challenge drew to a close on the opening day itself.
But the gulf between Prajnesh and his fancied Russian opponent, who recently vanquished multiple Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic, was wide and apparent as he lost 4-6, 1-6, 2–6.