Sumit Nagal in Prague Challenger pre-quarters after opponent retires hurt

Post-lockdown, this is the first ATP tournament for India No.1 Sumit Nagal since the Davis Cup campaign in March.

By Subhayan Dutta

India’s Sumit Nagal reached the pre-quarterfinals of the ATP Prague Challenger after UK’s Jay Clarke retired hurt midway through the third set of the second-round match. Nagal was leading 6-3, 5-7, 4-1 when Clarke retired.

Monday's match was a first major competitive tennis outing for the world number 127 since facing Marin Cilic at a Davis Cup tie with Croatia in March, before COVID-19 lockdowns stopped sports events around the globe.

It was a successful return for Sumit Nagal, who told the ATP that his training during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, and forthcoming appearance in the US Open, leave him well positioned to "take the next step", saying "I don't think I'm too far from it... getting that double-digit ranking."

Indian tennis no.1 Sumit Nagal could face second-seeded Dominic Thiem in the US Open second-round.

Sumit Nagal came into the Prague tournament as the sixth seed, and with confidence high having won a local clay-court tournament in Germany in June once the lockdown started easing in Europe.

The Indian was broken early in the second game by 22-year-old Jay Clarke, but the Englishman could not hold on to his momentum. The 23-year-old came back to break his opponent in the fifth, seventh, and the ninth games to take the first set 6-3.

Sumit Nagal started on the back foot in the second set as well, when Clarke broke him in the very first game. Clarke, the world No. 166, looked more resilient this time and although he was broken twice thereafter, the Briton saved two break points in the fourth game.

Eventually, Clarke gathered his momentum and broke Nagal twice in the ninth and 11th before taking the set 7-5 to draw level 1-1.

Nagal traded breaks with Clarke in the third set and went ahead with another in the fourth game before Clarke pulled up on the two-hour 13th minute mark and retired due to his injury.

Sumit Nagal will next face unseeded home hope Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic in the pre-quarters. The Challenger event will work as the perfect warm-up for Nagal, who has a direct entry in the US Open main draw.

Apart from the singles event, the top-ranked Indian will also feature in the doubles in Prague, partnering Belarus’ Ilya Ivashka.

Veteran Indian doubles player Divij Sharan and N Sriram Balaji are playing in the ATP Tour Challenger event with different partners.

While Divij Sharan will be playing alongside Dutchman Robin Haase as the number one seed, N Sriram Balaji has paired up with Belgium’s Kimmer Coppejans in Prague.