The 22-year-old Sumit Nagal needed a couple of years to find his best tennis on the Challenger Tour and get the opportunity to crack the top-200. Sumit finally managed to complete that task in May and June last year, reaching five semi-finals in seven events and finding himself in the top-200 for the first time after qualifying for the main draw at the ATP 500 event in Hamburg where he lost to Richard Gasquet in straight sets.
Taking some well-deserved rest, Sumit secured the first Grand Slam main draw appearance in New York, passing three qualifying rounds to book the place at the US Open where tennis gods brought him the one and only Roger Federer in the first round.
Facing the 20-time Grand Slam champion on packed Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday night, Nagal showed skills and determination to fight against the great opponent, winning the opening set before Roger took charge to notch a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 triumph in two and a half hours.
Both players had 13 break chances and the Swiss forged his win with seven breaks, controlling the pace in sets two and three and surviving a tough game at 5-4 in the decider to cross the finish line first and book the spot in the second round for the 19th time in New York from as many appearances.
As for Nagal, he showed some really good tennis in sets one and four, overcoming a slow start to take six of the last eight games in the opener and staying in touch with Roger in set number four after coming back from a 2-0 deficit, only to get broken again in game five that carried Roger over the top.
The Indian squandered four break points at 4-5 in the last set, missing the opportunity to prolong the encounter and put Federer under more pressure and enjoy the atmosphere on the Arthur Ashe Stadium a little bit more. Speaking to Behind the Racquet, Nagal recalled the clash against Federer and the fact he could barely sleep before the encounter.
"There are also moments where I know tennis holds a place in my heart. US Open last year was one of them. Everything was coming back to me, day by day, from the past 12 years of my life. I could barely sleep before I played Federer.
I started to think about how I started playing, all the travel, how early I used to wake up and all those times I lived alone. I know I complain a lot but that is how I deal with it. I also know that I have gone through a decent amount of struggle.
I go back to my home in Delhi and have no friends there, that's just a small part. I work hard to make sure my parents' hard work isn't wasted. They sacrificed so much. I want to give back to them, for the time and money they put into me.
Everyone's mind wonders about the possibilities, it is just a matter of how you change them from negative to positive. I was forced to do that the first chance I had to play Davis Cup for India. It was a tough time for me a few years ago.
You have this dream your whole life to play in Davis Cup, for your country. Out of nowhere, without even knowing, someone put a story in the newspaper. The story was about how I acted unprofessional, but it was without any proof or permission from me or the federation.
It was sad to see they would take that leap without any facts to back it up. I later received an email from the tennis federation saying didn't tell the newspaper anything. It doesn't change the fact that it was in the media, people read it and made assumptions about me.
The biggest lie of all was that my 'misbehavior' was the reason I was taken off the Davis Cup team that year. I was actually out for five months for a shoulder injury."