Sumit Nagal
Sumit Nagal

New York

Sumit Nagal became the first Indian tennis player to win a round at a Grand Slam in seven years when he downed American Bradley Klahn in his US Open first round, setting up a contest against world number three Dominic Thiem, here.

Returning to the Flushing Meadows where he took a set off Roger Federer last year, the Indian got past the local rival, ranked just a rung above the Indian at 126th in the world, 6-1, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in two hours and 12 minutes on Tuesday night.

Somdev Devvarman was the last Indian to win a main draw match at a major and incidentally, it was at the US Open in 2013 when he beat Slovakia's Lukas Lacko after coming through qualifiers.

"I qualified for a junior Slam in 2013 here and then the men's and now to win my first round here means a lot. I enjoy playing here and it has worked out in my favour few times," said Nagal.

"It was not easy to walk inside the court knowing this match is more in your favour. I was definitely nervous and especially playing for my first slam win but I did the things I was supposed to and kept my composure."

Somdev, who retired in January 2017, had reached the second rounds of Australian Open, French Open and US Open in 2013 apart from playing a second round at the Wimbledon in 2011 but never went beyond that.

After Somdev, Indian tennis saw the rise of Yuki Bhambri, Ramkumar Ramanathan and Prajnesh Gunneswaran but none of them could win a main draw round.

Ramkumar did not even qualify for a main draw in many attempts. Saketh Myneni qualified for US Open singles in 2016 but lost to Czech Republic's Jiri Vesely.

Bhambri had to cope with injuries and that halted his progress. Between 2015 and 2018 he competed all four majors but never crossed a round.

Nagal said Indian tennis should have done better and partly blamed it on the not-so-helpful "system" as well.

"In one way, yes (happy for major win) but in another way, we could do so much better. We have so many people playing this sport, we have great talent but no system, which makes me feel sad," the 23-year-old said without elaborating much.

Up next for him will be Austria's top player Thiem, who advanced when his Spanish rival Jaume Munar retired before the start of the third set. Thiem was leading 7-6(6) 6-3 when Munar found it difficult to continue as he injured his knee during the second set.

A fierce fighter, Nagal hardly cares for reputations and is expected to make it tough for the world number three on Thursday.

"I am ready and excited to play him. It's going to be fun and (I will) see where I stand in terms of my tennis level," he said.

Nagal came here after playing on clay courts like the last year. It appears making the surface switch comes easily to him. Nagal made the quarterfinals of the Prague Open, played on red dirt, in the lead up to the US Open.

"Courts here are nice and bouncy. I mean it is a little fast this year but last year it was nice. I think it's not even about adapting anymore. It's just about match-ups and how your game works on different type of surfaces," he said.

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