Tennis

Nagal rattles Federer with a gutsy display

Showcasing his talent: Not overawed by the occasion, Sumit Nagal uncorked some fine shots against Roger Federer on Monday.

Showcasing his talent: Not overawed by the occasion, Sumit Nagal uncorked some fine shots against Roger Federer on Monday.  

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Takes a set before succumbing in four; Serena routs Sharapova; Djokovic cruises

The fighting spirit shone through in Sumit Nagal’s dream Grand Slam debut as he took a set off the iconic Roger Federer before fizzling out at the US Open, here on Monday.

In a much-anticipated clash, the 22-year old lost 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 after giving a glimpse of his talent at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Nagal became only the fourth Indian — after Somdev Devvarman, Yuki Bhambri and Saketh Myneni —to win a set in the main draw of a Grand Slam in the last 20 years. What made it special was that it came against Federer, a colossal figure with 20 Grand Slams to his credit.

Nagal, who made the main draw through qualifying, returns from the Open not only richer by $58,000 but also with the experience of what it takes to compete at the biggest stage.

Federer endured a shaky start to the match but for Nagal it was the best he would have felt on a tennis court.

Early break

The Indian stunned the crowd by breaking Federer’s serve in the third game with the Swiss committing a double fault on the second breakpoint.

While a “rusty” Federer was still measuring up his newest rival, Nagal, with his deep returns, was setting up winners — some eye-catching inside-out forehands.

While many would not have expected such a sight, Nagal further shocked the crowd when he broke Federer for the second time and served out the set after being down 0-30.

Hitting deep returns and going for his shots fearlessly and not allowing Federer to come on to the net were key to Nagal’s first-set exploits even as the Swiss struggled to contain his unforced errors. Federer had 19 unforced errors to nine of Nagal in the opener.

The anticipation grew but Federer shook off the rustiness to dismantle Nagal’s game after that. He began serving well, if not his best, and dictated the play with his strong returns, killing points at will at the net.

After taking the second and third set with ease, the Swiss was serving for the match in the 10th game of the fourth when he went down 0-40 with Nagal making some solid returns. After saving five breakpoints, Federer closed the match with a strong serve on Nagal’s backhand.

There were no problems for Novak Djokovic, who began his title defence in style with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 win over Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena.

Meanwhile, in another highly anticipated match, Serena Williams trounced old foe Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-1 in the first New York meeting between two of the sport’s biggest names to get her quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title off to a flying start.

Eighth seed Serena showed no signs of the back spasms that forced her to retire in tears from the Toronto final two weeks ago and instead showcased some of her best on-court movement since returning from maternity leave in 2018.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 9:59:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/nagal-rattles-federer-with-a-gutsy-display/article29271980.ece

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