US Open

Federer finds comfort in wobble

Roger Federer making a return in his 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 win over Sumit Nagal in the US Open first round on Monday. Of the 32 points won by Nagal in the first set, 19 were unforced errors from Federer.
Roger Federer making a return in his 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 win over Sumit Nagal in the US Open first round on Monday. Of the 32 points won by Nagal in the first set, 19 were unforced errors from Federer. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Roger Federer making a return in his 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 win over Sumit Nagal (above) in the US Open first round on Monday. Of the 32 points won by Nagal in the first set, 19 were unforced errors from Federer.
Roger Federer making a return in his 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 win over Sumit Nagal (above) in the US Open first round on Monday. Of the 32 points won by Nagal in the first set, 19 were unforced errors from Federer.

Swiss ace feels first-set loss to Indian could signal a similar run to his Wimbledon outing

NEW YORK • Roger Federer dropped the first set at the US Open - against someone named Nagal.

No, not Nadal. Nagal.

The Swiss shrugged off that slow start and came back for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 victory on Monday night against Sumit Nagal, a qualifier from India ranked 190th.

How did the 20-time Grand Slam champion deal with digging himself that hole?

"Just try to forget it," the 38-year-old said during his on-court interview in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"Play tough. Stay with him. It was a tough first set. Credit to him."

Federer also heaped praise on his opponent for the display on one of the sport's biggest stages.

  • 1,219

  • More ATP match wins Roger Federer has over Sumit Nagal, who took a set off the Swiss in the US Open.

"Never easy to come out and play your best," he said. "Even though it's kind of what you live for, playing on the big stage. So I think he did that very well.

"I think he knows what he can bring. That's why I think he's going to have a very solid career."

When that first set ended, there were plenty of people looking on in disbelief.

This was not, after all, Rafael Nadal, someone Federer has never faced at Flushing Meadows but trails 24-16 overall.

Instead, it was Nagal, who is now 0-5 in Tour-level matches, trailing Federer by 1,219 victories.

Federer played a big part in what transpired in the early going: Of the 32 points Nagal won in the first set, only three arrived via his own winners. Of the other 29, 19 came from unforced errors by Federer, and the other 10 were forced errors off the Swiss star's racket.

One particular issue was Federer's serve: He won merely seven of his first 20 second-serve points.

"Maybe it's not a bad thing to go through a match like this," said Federer.

"It was very similar at Wimbledon when I dropped the first set there, as well, in the first round," added the Swiss, who went all the way only to lose a five-set epic to Novak Djokovic in last month's final at the All England Club.

Monday was also the first time in more than two decades that India had more than one player in the main draw of a Grand Slam singles, with Prajnesh Gunneswaran losing to world No. 5 Daniil Medvedev.

The last time the country of 1.3 billion had two singles players in the main draw was in 1998 when Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi competed at Wimbledon.

Like most kids growing up in India, Nagal wanted to be a cricketer but it was his father who insisted he swop bat for a racket, setting him on his tennis path.

In 2005 Nagal caught the eye of Bhupathi, who won India's first Grand Slam title in 1997 when he claimed the French Open mixed doubles, at a trial for his academy and got selected from the thousands of youngsters present.

Nagal was ranked 361st at the start of the year after being sidelined by a shoulder problem.

But he has already made remarkable progress this year.

"He showed incredible composure against the greatest player in the world and held his own," Bhupathi told Reuters.

"I think both he and his coaching team should be very proud."

ASSOCIATED PRESS, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2019, with the headline 'Federer finds comfort in wobble'. Print Edition | Subscribe