Sumit Nagal inspires the world to take note with support from Roger Federer
It was a dream debut in the Grand Slam circuit for Sumit Nagal, to play a robust match against 20-time champion Roger Federer in the US Open in New York.
The first set that he won 6-4, breaking Federer’s serve for the second time in the ninth game, will be long remembered, in his 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 loss.
Yet, the overwhelming excitement about the 22-year-old, who was not that well known except whenever he said that he was not available for Davis Cup, overshadowed a lot of achievements of the Indian players.
When Nagal was yet to be one-year-old, his mentor for many years, Mahesh Bhupathi played five sets against the then French Open champion Carlos Moya in the first round of Wimbledon in 1998. Well, who remembers Mahesh for his singles prowess! Vijay Amritraj said that there was no difference between the two players, after Moya won 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3.
Obviously, Mahesh lacked the physical fitness that the former world No.1 Moya had, but could match him till the final stretch.
More interestingly, when Federer was possibly taking the baby steps into the big league, Leander Paes beat him 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 in the first qualifying round of Indian Wells. Federer was three years away from winning his first Grand Slam title, but reached the pre-quarterfinals of French Open apart from the third round of Australian Open and US Open that year in 2000.
Of course, everyone remembers Paes beating Pete Sampras 6-3, 6-4 in New Haven in 1998.
For the record, Paes retains the 1-0 record against Federer and Sampras in singles, as the two never got another opportunity to have a revenge on him.
It is convenient to hide behind the expression, in the last two decades, to qualify Sumit Nagal’s unbelievable Grand Slam debut, as if it was some crime to remember the big deeds by our boys a year or so earlier.
Perhaps, it does not fit the narrative, as the contrast in the scores, especially of Somdev Devvarman against Federer, is far too lively, to be killed by the victory of Paes over Federer.
For sure, Sumit will be followed a lot better from now on, even though it may take some doing for him to get out of the Challenger circuit and make it to the next level, the way Prajnesh Gunneswaran has done, and something that Ramkumar Ramanathan has been trying, for some time.
There is no denying the fact that by qualifying into the Grand Slam and giving a good account of his game against the best player in the business, Sumit Nagal has gained a firm place in the mindset of the tennis populace. No wonder he is responsible for erasing some old memories!
Men (first round): Daniil Medvedev (RUS) bt Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-4, 6-1, 6-2; Roger Federer bt Sumit Nagal 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.
(Courtesy: The Hindu)