Indian tennis player Sumit Nagal on Tuesday made an impressive Grand Slam debut at the US Open by clinching the first set against 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer 6-4 in the opening round at Flushing Meadows.
However, Federer rebounded strongly and brought out his experience to win the next three sets and register a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 victory over the spirited 22-year-old from Jhajjar in Haryana in a thrilling first round of the men's singles event that lasted two hours and 29 minutes.
On Friday, Nagal had defeated Joao Menezes of Brazil 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 to qualify for the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time and set up a dream date with arguably one of the greatest players of all times, Federer.
Born on August 16, 1997, Nagal got the taste of tennis as early as at the age of 10 when he was inducted into former Indian tennis great Mahesh Bhupathi's Mission 2018 program, which sought to produce an Indian Grand Slam singles champion by 2018.
In 2015, Nagal bagged the Wimbledon boys' doubles title with his Vietnamese partner Ly Hoang Nam after defeating the American-Australian duo of Reilly Opelka and Akira Santillan in the final.
With the win, Nagal became the sixth tennis player from the country to win a junior Grand Slam title.
A year later, the Indian tennis player made his Davis Cup debut with a World Group Playoff clash against Spain in New Delhi.
Nagal clinched his first challenger title at the 2017 edition of the Bengaluru Challenger. He defeated British tennis player Jay Clarke in the summit showdown to take the top honors. En route to the final, the Indian also defeated compatriot Yuki Bhambri in the semi-final and top seed Blaz Kavcic in the quarter-final of that tournament.
In 2017, Nagal was at the center of controversy when he was reportedly dropped from India's Davis Cup team by the All India Tennis Association (AITA) owing to disciplinary issues. He had allegedly missed a practice session in July 2016 in Chandigarh citing hangover and even brought his girlfriend along to the tour without seeking permission from the authorities.
Nagal had also finished as a runner-up along with his partners Amandeep Singh and Raj Kumar (sub pro) at the 2018 Junior Asian Games.
On Friday, Nagal became only the fifth Indian player to feature in the main draw of a Grand Slam singles in this decade. Somdev Devvarman, Yuki Bhambri, Saketh Myneni and Prajnesh Gunneswaran are the only other Indians to have played at Tennis Majors.
He also became the youngest Indian in 25 years to qualify for the main draw of the US Open and the second Indian player to take part in the 2019 edition of the tournament after Prajnesh Gunneswaran, who had earlier received automatic qualification.
It was for the first time since 1998 that two Indians made it to the main draw of the men's singles event of a Grand Slam. Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi had earlier represented India in the singles event at 1998 Wimbledon.
Nagal is currently placed at 190th spot in the Association for Tennis Professionals (ATP) men's singles rankings.