A year after he showed his calibre against one of the greatest in the game, Roger Federer, in front of a packed Arthur Ashe stadium, India’s Sumit Nagal returned to the US Open to register his first win at a Grand Slam on Tuesday.
The 23-year-old Nagal’s march to the second round of the 2020 edition of the Slam was the first by an Indian at this level in seven years since Somdev Devvarman beat Slovakian Lukáš Lacko in the opening round of the 2013 US Open.
At court No. 12 on Tuesday afternoon, Sumit Nagal beat Bradley Klahn of the USA 6-1, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 and will now face world No. 3 and second seed of the competition Dominic Thiem of Austria next on Thursday.
Though the start of his opening-round match was delayed due to rain, it barely seemed to bother Sumit Nagal who came out all guns blazing against an opponent ranked five places below him on the ATP charts.
The Indian was on the money from the beginning as he didn’t let Bradley Klahn any time to settle into a rhythm. The American wobbled to take the opening game, but it was all Sumit Nagal from there on as he went on to win the following six games to take the opening set in just over 20 minutes.
The 23-year-old Indian stayed true to his backcourt game, banking on his controlled strokes and smart shot selection to keep the American guessing throughout the set.
Aiding his cause were Klahn’s unforced errors (15) as the American found it hard to brush off his rusty form post the COVID-19 break that also saw him lose his opening round tie at the Indian Wells Masters 1000 event to a lower-ranked opponent.
The second set, however, had Klahn grow into the game as he matched the Indian shot for shot to take the fight to his opponent. While Nagal had his powerful groundstrokes, the American relied on his fine serves, which included four aces, to pocket his points.
But Sumit Nagal found another gear as he broke the 30-year-old Klahn in the sixth to sneak ahead.
Though the American dug deep to stay in the contest - saving three break points in the eighth to avoid conceding the set - Nagal was on top of his serves as he closed the second set soon after to take another step closer to victory.
Down but not yet out
Trailing 0-2 against a much younger opponent, many would have chosen to throw in the towel, but the American Klahn had different plans.
As the match progressed, Klahn dug into his vast experience and stayed deep to play the waiting game, hoping for a mistake from the much younger Indian.
And Sumit Nagal soon played into the trap as unforced errors (nine) and double faults (three) crept into his game as he conceded the third and extended his wait for a first Grand Slam main draw win.
That, however, proved to be the wake-up call that Sumit Nagal needed, as the Indian wasted no time in wrapping up the match in a dominant fashion, taking the fourth set by a 6-1 margin.
Now the formidable challenge of Dominic Thiem lies between Nagal and a place in the third round.
The Austrian progressed to the encounter with Nagal after his first round opponent ,Jaume Munar of Spain, retired due to injury with Thiem two sets up.