Published: 27th August 2019
Who is Sumit Nagal? Everything you need to know about the 22-year-old who took Federer's breath away
Spotted by Bhupathi, Sumit had seen some good times and some struggles but his 2019 career had started with a confident shot
It was not about the result. But the match itself that kept Sumit Nagal on a high. The fifth Indian man to play a Grand Slam in the past decade, Sumit took the first set off his first game of the US Open. He was playing Roger Federer. His god.
The Jhajjar-born 23-year-old player had won three gruelling qualifying rounds to enter his first main draw, but no one thought that he would be troubling Federer and were treating it as a walkover for Roger. But Sumit started chasing down every forehand and backhand and won the first set 6-4. The youngster made the world, sit up and take notice of his talent as he matched an error-prone Federer shot for shot. Playing at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, Sumit did not let the occasion get the better of him and played some fine tennis before going down fighting to the 20 Grand Slam titles record holder 6-4, 1-6, 2-6, 4-6. "It is 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. So I think he did that very well," Federer said.
“It’s probably the best thing that could have happened. I was hoping I get to play Roger someday. He is (the) God of tennis, so yeah I am looking forward to it,” the World no. 190 told the media ahead of his big clash. A lot of players have admitted having grown up idolising Federer, but not Nagal. He has an interesting reason for it, "He's just too good. You never want to copy him. If you watch Federer and what he's doing with the ball and then you try to do the same, you're just going to break your racquets. It's never going to happen. That's why he's not my idol. Just too good. That's how I see it."
Sumit's mother and sister were thrilled about what he achieved on the hardcourt. "It was a proud moment for us. No one thought that he would face Federer in his first match. Nagal's performance was very good. Even Federer said that the first set was difficult for him. Federer proved why is he called God of Tennis. But Nagal's performance in the first set made me very happy," Sumit's sister told the media. "If you have a look at social media, he is being hailed as the Indian Nadal. My friends told me that I will be called a celebrity as I am the sister of a tennis player. We downloaded the US Open App to watch Nagal's qualifying matches," she added. She also said that when her husband told her that Nagal would face Federer in the first match, she was not able to believe it.
"My husband told me that Sumit would face Federer in the first round match. I thought my husband was joking when he said Federer would face Sumit. It was a big deal for us when we found out Nagal would face Federer. Everyone knew what the outcome of the match might be, but we just wanted to see how Sumit would fare in the match," Nagal's sister said.
Born on August 16, 1997, Sumit won the 2015 Wimbledon boys’ doubles with his Vietnamese partner Lý Hoàng Nam, defeating pair of Reilly Opelka and Akira Santillan in the final. He became the sixth Indian player to win a junior Grand Slam. Sumit attributes a lot of his success to Mahesh Bhupati, who had taken him under his wing more than a decade ago. Bhupati has hailed 22-year-old Sumit Nagal's showing against the five-time champion and current world no.3 Roger Federer in the first round of the US Open. While Nagal lost the match, Bhupati feels the youngster showed "incredible" composure to bag the first set.
Sumit, who grew up in West Delhi, made his Davis Cup debut for India in the 2016 World Group Playoff tie against Spain in New Delhi, but the next couple of years were not in the ace's favour. In 2017, after reports came to surface that Sumit had missed a practice session in July 2016 at Chandigarh during the tie against Korea citing a hangover, he was dropped from the Indian Davis Cup squad led by Anand Amritraj which was scheduled to face New Zealand between 3 and 5 February 2017. A source close to All India Tennis Association (AITA) told Sportskeeda, "It is a case of sheer indiscipline, on the part of the player. He missed several training sessions, brought his girlfriend to the camp without informing us. Several other discrepancies emerged, including incessant drinking which led to the captain taking this call." Sumit denied the allegations, he got support from former India player Somdev Devvarman who stated that "I want to be clear once again. You have not chosen Sumit Nagal for the upcoming tie, because Sumit Nagal is not available to play. How do I know this? Because I have spent 2 weeks with Sumit in December helping him with his training and his rehab for the current shoulder injury he is recovering from."
But 2019 saw a turn of fortunes. Sumit entered the US Open qualifiers confident. Consistent results on the Challenger Circuit meant that he broke into the top-200 for the first time in his career. Sumit had started the year outside the 350 bracket and had to overcome more than a few injuries but came back strong.