US Open 2019: Prajnesh, Sumit set to emulate Paes, Bhupathi

It’s been 21 years since two Indians appeared in the singles main draw at a Grand Slam, but Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Sumit Nagal will have tough outings, facing Daniil Medvedev and Roger Federer, respectively.

“I am going to have as much fun as possible,” Sumit Nagal on facing Roger Federer at US Open.   -  M. Vedhan

The last time India had two players in the singles main draw at a Grand Slam was way back in 1998 when Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi both featured at Wimbledon. Two decades on, Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Sumit Nagal are set to emulate them at the US Open.

Prajnesh, India’s top-ranked player at 88, will take on world No. 5 Daniil Medvedev in the second match at the Louis Armstrong Stadium, while Nagal, who came through qualifying, will experience the electric setting of playing Roger Federer at the Arthur Ashe Stadium under lights on Tuesday.

“It’s pretty awesome that we have two guys [in the main draw],” said Prajnesh. “It was just a matter of time. We have had many players in the qualifiers...myself, Ramkumar [Ramananthan], Yuki [Bhambri], Sumit… It was bound to happen. The way Sumit qualified, in the final round he was down and had to dig deep. He deserves to be here and we are both looking forward to our matches.”

Back in 1998, Paes and Bhupathi both lost in the first round, to Zimbabwe’s Wayne Black and Spaniard Carlos Moya, respectively. To say that the task at hand for Prajnesh and Nagal is equally arduous would be a massive understatement. Medvedev and Federer are the highest-ranked players they have ever faced. Nagal, though, stated that he would simply cherish the moment.

READ: Sumit Nagal through to main draw, will play Federer

'Really happy'

“I am going to have as much fun as possible,” the 22-year-old said. “When I found out I was going to play Roger Federer, I was really really happy. The first time I qualified for a Slam was here in 2012 as a junior. I am doing it again here in the men’s category. So this tournament has played a big role in my career.”

Prajnesh Gunneswaran, too, faces a tough challenge in World no. 5 Daniil Medvedev.   -  Getty Images

 

For 29-year-old Prajnesh, who will be playing his fourth straight main draw at a Major, it will be a measuring stick like none other. He played Canada’s Milos Raonic, then world No. 17, at Wimbledon, but Medvedev will be a huge step-up. The Russian is in red-hot form, winning the Cincinnati Masters recently and reaching two other finals [Montreal Masters and Washington 500].

Upping the ante

“He is on fire no doubt,” Prajnesh said of Medvedev. “But I am going to play the best that I can. It is the first round of a Slam and it’s not going to be easy for him to just walk in and play. I think I have the weapons to hurt him, but I will have to play really well to make it close.”

Nagal on the other hand will hope that a creditable effort will further his comeback. The youngster had ended 2018 ranked 485 in the world, but is now up to 190. “It wasn’t that I was not playing well, but I was not enjoying it,” Nagal said. “There were injuries, and I was out for a lot of weeks and months. I didn’t have any rhythm. Now I have a team which supports me and enjoys working with me. So just very happy now to be in this main draw which I always dreamt about.”