Until then, Sumit Nagal had solely resorted to the few phrases he’d grumble in direction of his field. However when the rating learn 4-Zero in favour of his opponent Ricardas Berankis, after shedding the primary set, the 23-year-old yelled in anguish. It could appear that the frustration of being pushed from one facet of the court docket to the opposite with no reward was getting the higher of him. However the scream was truly a battle cry. Mentally, he discovered what he wanted to do to remain on this first spherical Australian Open tie.
“I simply took a step again from the baseline (throughout rallies) and I began to make extra balls in, made him play extra, made him go for extra winners,” he says.
Simply as shortly as he went down 4-0, he recovered to make it 4-4. Nagal’s large forehand had began to kick in, his tireless legs began to pump in additional effort to chase down photographs, and his physique serves at Berankis began to pay dividends. Nagal was prepared for an additional slugfest.
It was all evenly balanced by the point he was serving at 5-6 within the second, trying to take the set into the tiebreaker. That’s when Berankis, the World No 73 with extra expertise in tough-match conditions, performed a collection of unreturnable passing photographs.
A backhand down-the-line winner took the rating to 15-40. And on his first set level probability, although Nagal had been answerable for the rally and pushed the Lithuanian deep on the left, Berankis let-fly one other two-hander passing winner to seal the set.
“I don’t know if it was unfortunate for me or fortunate for him as a result of he hit these photographs on the road,” Nagal says. “It might have occurred at any time, however it simply occurred at that second.”
Down by two units, and with Berankis beginning to construct momentum, Nagal would finally bow out 6-2, 7-5, 6-3, in a match that lasted two hours and 10 minutes.
It was the primary time Nagal was enjoying in the primary draw of the Australian Open, courtesy of a wild card. Naturally, the nerves have been anticipated from the World No 144 from Jhajjar. So was the attention for a battle and the massive forehand that had impressed even Roger Federer when the pair competed on the US Open in 2019.
Sadly, the one Indian singles participant on the Main took fairly some time to get into some rhythm.
“You’ll be able to’t present up at a Grand Slam match and be elsewhere for the primary 45 minutes,” Somdev Devvarman, who was commentating, stated in a post-match evaluation present. “It’s not simply in regards to the alternatives that have been missed, however the vogue wherein he missed it. He was nervous, and that’s comprehensible. However Berankis confirmed up and Sumit was solely there in patches.”
The favoured forehand shot wasn’t as penetrative because it’s identified to be prior to now. However he did present a couple of elegant flashes of it. Essentially the most pleasant was when Nagal sprinted diagonally from the left nook of the baseline to achieve a drop-shot, after which performed a curving forehand winner.
However he quickly ran out of issues to throw on the Lithuanian.
“Serving a excessive share on his physique was possibility, however he’s returner. He discovered that I used to be going for his physique and adjusted to it,” Nagal provides. “I ought to have received extra of the shut video games, however then once more I haven’t performed a lot for some time.”
Nagal didn’t journey with a lot match observe when he got here to Australia. A shoulder damage in October meant he needed to spend most of his time pre-season recovering from it. He needed to depend on the five-hour coaching exemption gamers obtained through the quarantine spell once they first arrived in Melbourne.
However towards a prime 100 participant, it wasn’t sufficient. Nagal asserts he’s taken a couple of notes in his diary about issues he must work on. He’s ticked ‘Australian Open look’ off his bucket checklist, however making an influence at Melbourne Park will probably be excessive on the agenda subsequent 12 months.