His name is close enough. His rig might be even better. And now Sumit Nagal has finally followed in Rafael Nadal’s footsteps by winning a grand slam match — the sky is the limit.
Nagal, 23, became the first Indian tennis player to win a grand slam match in seven years when he defeated America’s Bradley Khan in four sets in their first round encounter at the US Open.
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During last year’s US Open, Nagal made headlines when he took a set off tennis icon Roger Federer, and everyone inevitably made jokes about his name.
But he’d never tasted success on the sport’s biggest stage, so he upped his training this year.
All that hard work during tennis’ COVID-enforced break — hard work Nagal is happy to share on Instagram — paid off as he progressed to the second round at a slam for the first time in his career.
The previous Indian to win at a grand slam also came at Flushing Meadows, when Somdev Devvarman defeated Lucas Lacko in 2013.
Nagal will next face Dominic Thiem and will hope the World No. 3 is rusty.
“To be honest, I am just chilling, doing my stuff, eating food and watching some videos on YouTube,” Nagal said after the career-defining victory, as reported by The Times of India.
“It’s time to relax, but the feeling was definitely different when I was at the courts. It was kinda intense.
“I am ready and excited to play (Thiem). It’s gonna be fun and see where I stand in terms of my tennis level.
“It’s my first (in a major), definitely not gonna forget. Grinding out in four sets, rain delay, cloud, sun, wind … it was just a messy day but happy it turned out to be in my favour.
“I would say it is a reward for all the hard work I have put in and hard training week.
“I’ve got nothing to lose. Last year I played Roger Federer and this year Thiem. It’s going to be a great match. For sure, I’m not the favourite.”
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Nagal also thanked the Virat Kohli Foundation — founded by the Indian cricket superstar — for supporting his career since he almost quit the sport due to financial difficulty.
“Virat Kohli’s foundation has been supporting me since 2017. I haven’t been performing well for the last two years and was facing a financial crisis. If I didn’t have Virat Kohli supporting me, I don’t know what I would have done,” Nagal said last year, as reported by Outlook.
“Early this year, when I was flying from Canada to Germany after a tournament, I had six dollars in my wallet … just six dollars after the help that I have been getting, so imagine what a mess I must have been before. But I survived, and things are getting better. If people fund athletes, it will only help the sport flourish in the country. I am fortunate to get that support from Virat.”