That’s Sumit Nagal, trying to play it down after recording the biggest win of his career so far.
The 23-year-old Indian clinched his first win in a Grand Slam when he beat American Bradley Klahn 6-1, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in the first round of the US Open in New York on Tuesday.
“It’s time to relax, but the feeling was definitely different when I was at the courts. It was kinda tensed,” the India No. 1 added.
Returning to the venue where he hit the headlines by taking a set off the legendary Roger Federer last year, Nagal needed two hours and 12 minutes to wrap up his victory on Court 12.
The reward for the sweet success is a face-off with World No. 3 Dominic Thiem, who advanced 7-6, 6-3 after his opponent Jaume Munar of Spain retired with a knee injury he suffered in the second set.
“I am ready and excited to play him (Thiem). It’s gonna be fun and see where I stand in terms of my tennis level,” Nagal, who had also stretched Stand Wawrinka the full distance in an ATP Challenger in Prague coming into the US Open, said of his next top-10 rival.
“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.”
The last time an Indian recorded a singles win at a Grand Slam also came at Flushing Meadows, when Somdev Devvarman beat Lucas Lacko (then World No. 84) of the Czech Republic after qualifying in 2013.
The Tripura-born then lost to Andreas Seppi in the second round, pocketing $53,000.
On the other hand, Nagal is assured of $100,000 (Rs. 73 lakh approx) for reaching the second round, his biggest pay cheque yet, thanks to the revised prize money structure by which early round winners will get an increased share of the pot from this year.
“Yeah, I would say it is a reward for all the hard work I have put in and hard training week,” he said.
The start of matches on outer courts were delayed by rain and gusts of winds that continued through the day made it tough and tricky for the players.
The industrious Nagal, with his trainer Milos Galecic from Nensel Tennis Academy of Germany on court side, adjusted to the conditions more quickly than the local lad, the 2010 NCAA singles champion and owner of eight Challenger titles.
The Indian delivered just one ace, but he is known more for his work rate. He covered 2490.6 metres of the court, while the 30-year-old Klahn ran 2278.3 metres.
Nagal was quick off the blocks, riding on an error-prone start by his rival to get back to back breaks and take the first set in 23 minutes.
Left-handed Klahn dropped serve in the third and fifth games with a string of unforced errors, double-faulting on breakpoint in the fifth.
In the second set, Nagal continued to exploit Klahn’s shaky serve to go up 4-2. He squandered a chance to close out the set in the eighth game when he had three chances to break again.
He eventually served it out in the next game for a two-set advantage.
The American played a steadier game to take the third set.
He broke Nagal in the eighth game, the Indian surrendering it after being 40-15. Klahn took the set with an ace in the next.
Nagal quickly regained his focus and raced through the fourth set in 28 minutes.
Overall, Nagal was the superior player of the two.
He had 80 percent (70/88) of his first serves in and won 77 percent of those points. He broke the California native six times while surrendering his own serve just once.
Nagal hit only 17 winners compared to the 30-year-old Klahn’s 32, but the former also made far fewer unforced errors – 17 to his rival’s 40.
The India No. 1 grabbed 116 points in total while Klahn claimed only 80.