Sumit Nagal: Playing Federer and taking a set off him... couldn’t have asked for more

Fast-rising Indian tennis player Sumit Nagal was ecstatic when he was drawn to meet the legendary Roger Federer in the opening round at the U.S. Open. He was happy with his performance at the tournament as he 'fought for every point'.

Sumit Nagal got off to a positive start in his first-round US Open clash against Roger Federer as he won the first set 6-4. However, the Swiss bounced back to knock out Nagal 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, on Tuesday.   -  Getty Images

Fast-rising Indian tennis player Sumit Nagal was ecstatic when he was drawn to meet the legendary Roger Federer in the opening round at the U.S. Open. Nagal caused a flutter by getting the better of the legend in the first set before going down in four.

The 22-year old shared his experience in an exclusive interview with Sportstar.

Excerpts

Congrats on your match on Monday. How would you assess yourself?

First of all, thank you. Coming from not playing too many hardcourt tournaments this year and then qualifying for a slam, beating really good players in the qualies [qualifying rounds], then playing Federer and taking a set off him, playing in the biggest stadium in tennis history… I think I couldn’t have asked for more. Overall, I was happy with my performance, with the tournament, with the way I competed.

How was the transition from clay to hardcourt?

I didn’t have too much time to practise on hardcourt as when I was playing at Hamburg, [in] my last tournament I fell on my ankle, it was not in great shape so I had to take a few weeks off and had to pull out of the next two tournaments after Hamburg. But since then I tried whatever I could. I tried to spend as much time on the hardcourt, but I didn’t play great tennis but I was competing a lot, I was fighting every point. I think that’s what matters.

In 2018 you were ranked in the 400s after injuries and match losses. You are now ranked 190 and on the first night of the Open you took the first set from Federer. Did you think that would happen?

The funny part with tennis is, anything is possible. You do not know what is going to happen the next morning because you wake up and feel amazing and the other person can feel like [it’s] his worst day ever. Tennis is a sport — as you have seen — [in which] a lot of people who have done amazing in a week or two weeks, they just continue their run. So you always, always keep trying, keep giving yourself an opportunity and you never know where you are going to end up.

Tell us about the moment you heard you’d be playing Federer — apparently you got a text message?

Yes, I got a text message from my coach saying you are playing Federer and I was so, so happy and I was like, “Yes!”. Because when we saw the draw on Thursday and we saw that Federer was going to play a qualifier, I wanted so bad to play him. And this is what I got. So it was amazing, what happened that night.

Apart from the fact that it was Federer you were playing, what specifically stood out for you about Monday’s match?

Ah, the crowd. The crowd and atmosphere. You cannot complain about it. It is phenomenal to play in New York City, in Flushing Meadows, under those big lights, so many thousands of people cheering, making noise. It’s just a great, great, great feeling.

You chose tennis in a land of cricket…

I used to play a lot of cricket when I was young. I used to spend a lot of hours on cricket. But my dad was not too happy about it, he wanted me to play an individual sport and that’s how I got into tennis.

Meeting Mahesh Bhupathi was a turning point in your journey…

Meeting Mahesh was a turning point. He has played a big role in my tennis, in my life. He has been a part of my journey for the past twelve years. I have been playing tennis for fourteen years, so it does affect [things] a lot. He has always been there…whenever I needed funding, he would find whatever he could to support me.

What is next for you?

I am planning to play some tournaments on clay in Europe and South America and then maybe finish the year with some hardcourt tournaments in China and India.