US Open: Sumit Nagal through to main draw, will play Federer

Sumit Nagal joins Prajnesh Gunneswaran in the US Open main draw, making it the first time since 1998 that two Indians are in a Grand Slam singles draw.

Former Wimbledon boys junior doubles champion Sumit Nagal will be making his Grand Slam debut at the Flushing Meadows.   -  R.Ragu

India's Sumit Nagal has booked the perfect Grand Slam debut and will take on 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer in the first round of the US Open.

Nagal qualified for the final Grand Slam of the year beating Brazil's Joao Menezes 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 in the third and final round round of qualifying on Friday. In doing so, he becomes only the fifth Indian to feature in a Grand Slam singles main draw in this decade and the youngest to qualify for a Grand Slam main draw in 25 years.

Somdev Devvarman, Yuki Bhambri, Saketh Myneni and Prajnesh Gunneswaran are the only ones who have played at the Slams this decade.

Nagal came into the US Open qualifiers confident, backed by terrific results during the clay court season. He had started the year outside the 350 bracket and had to overcome a difficult period, encountering injuries but came back strong. Consistent results on the Challenger Circuit meant that he broke into the top-200 for the first time in his career.

With Prajnesh also playing in this US Open, India now will have two players in the Grand Slam main draw for the first time since 1998 when legends Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi competed at the Wimbledon.

'Career defying moment'

India’s Davis Cup captain Bhupathi, who was the first to spot Nagal’s talent and took him under his wings to provide support, said it’s a career defining moment for the 22-year-old from Jhajjar in Haryana.

“Nagal has been unlucky with injuries and has worked very hard to get back to this level. Playing Roger at the US Open at night is every qualifier’s dream and nightmare and I think this experience will both be a confidence booster and a career defining moment for him,” Bhupathi told said, reacting to Nagal’s impending Grand Slam debut.

So what Nagal needs to do to not get overwhelmed when he finds Federer across the court?

“He needs to enjoy the moment and go for his shots,” suggested Bhupathi.

Nagal, ranked 190 in the world, had also become only the sixth Indian player to win a junior Grand Slam title in 2015 when he won Wimbledon boys doubles with Nam Hoang Ly of Vietnam.

The US Open, the last Slam of the tennis calender, begins on Monday.