Sumit Nagal put up a spirited fight before losing to Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic 4-6, 6-4, 4-6 in the opening round of the Tata Open Maharashtra at the Balewadi Stadium here on Monday.
When Krajinovic led by a set and had Nagal down two breakpoints at 2-2 in the second set, the contest seemingly had just one winner. But the Indian turned it around admirably and was alive until deep in the third set before the capricious tie, which lasted 2 hours and 24 minutes, settled in Krajinovic’s hands.
If he had won against the world no.54, it would have been 25-year-old Nagal’s second-biggest victory, after the triumph over the then No.22 Cristian Garin in Buenos Aires in March 2021.
For nearly a set and a half, Nagal didn’t seem like coming anywhere near that feat. The 6’10” Serb’s power was something he couldn’t handle and Krajinovic’s booming serves fetched many a free point. And when the rallies stretched, Krajinovic’s fiercely accurate double-fisted backhand often decided matters.
But Nagal’s hold to 3-2 in the second set after saving two breakpoints triggered a shift. Even as Krajinovic moved Nagal end to end and hurried him into his shots, the latter swung hard and swung well.
The hold to 5-4 showed Nagal had finally found the tennis to match Krajinovic’s, with a brave one-two punch and a put-away volley to end a well-constructed point being the standout moments.
With Krajinovic serving at deuce, 4-5, Nagal made the play by stepping into the court, dictating a rally, and forcing a weak backhand into the net. That clearly unsettled the Serb, who on setpoint went for the audacious but ended up botching a drop shot which Nagal slapped away into the open court with glee.
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At the start of the third set, Nagal had two breakpoints in the second game to wrest complete control of the match, but couldn’t. Krajinovic soon tightened his game, and at 4-4, when he pressured Nagal’s serve, the home favourite didn’t have a higher gear to shift into. From 30-15, Nagal missed an easy forehand, landed a drop into the net and sent an inside-out long. The resistance had ended.
“If I can play matches like this, I’ll be really happy,” Nagal said later. “It’s a very high level, and matches like this will not only make you better fitness-wise but also, you learn to stay calm and your shot selection gets better.”