U.S. Open 2019 holds special memories for Sumit Nagal. The youngster got through the qualifying rounds, drew Roger Federer for his Grand Slam debut and even took a set off the Swiss maestro under the glitzy New York night sky at the packed Arthur Ashe Stadium.
This time around, there will neither be Federer nor the boisterous crowd, but for Nagal, who at World No. 127 is the last direct entrant into the main draw, the allure of the Major remains.
India’s best-ranked singles player could still choose to remain in Europe — his current training base — and play on his beloved clay until the French Open in late September. But after starting at the ATP Challenger in Prague in two weeks’ time, he is set to cross the Atlantic, even as COVID-19 shows no signs of abating in the United States.
“I looked into that [staying in Europe], but when you make it into the main draw of a Slam, you don't want to miss out,” Nagal told Sportstar . “It’s going to be different [without fans]. But a Slam is a Slam and if I win a round it will be a huge achievement because I haven’t done it before.”
The near-five-month break had prepared him well, the 22-year-old felt. “For the first time in a long time I had so much time to practice. I have worked a lot on my serve and focused on those areas where I had injuries in the past. [It was] more like a ‘prehab’ than rehab.
“And then, when you find out that the Tour is restarting and you are going to be competing soon, it gives you energy, a bit of adrenaline. So I have been very motivated in the last few weeks.”
But Nagal isn’t aiming for the sky. “I have no expectations. It’s not going to be easy for anyone [because of the break]. I am starting on clay and will be focusing more on that surface. But once I am in New York, I am going to compete freely. I have nothing to lose.”
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