It was expected to be an easy opening match for 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer when he faced India’s Sumit Nagal in the first round of the 2019 US Open. And while Federer eventually took the match easily, Nagal managed to achieve something that not many can boast of - taking a set off the Swiss champion.
For the 22-year-old youngster from Haryana, this was the stuff that dreams are made of. “It’s probably the best thing that could have happened. I was hoping I get to play Roger someday. He is God of tennis, so yeah I am looking forward to it,” he had said ahead of the clash.
Nagal, only the fifth Indian male player to feature in a Grand Slam singles main draw in this decade, put up a spirited performance and seemed undaunted by the massive task ahead of him.
The world number 190 sent the stadium into shock when he rallied from 0-2 down in the first set to take it 6-4, becoming the first Indian to take a set off Federer.
Having played only 2 competitive matches between the Wimbledon final in July and this match, Federer’s rustiness showed - he made 19 unforced errors compared to Nagal's 9 in the first set.
The Federer of old was back the next set onwards and soon raced to a 3-0 lead. However, Nagal was not to be deterred. Impressing with his athleticism and forehand winners, the Indian kept Federer on his toes over the course of the entire match.
The 5-time US Open champion eventually beat Nagal 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in 2 hours and 30 minutes.
"I think he knows what he can bring. That's why I think he's going to have a very solid career. But, of course it's not the game that comes out with the biggest surprises. It's really consistent. I think he did it very well tonight," Federer said about the Indian after the match.
Nagal will now rise to a career best ranking of 175.