Hindustan Times (Jalandhar)

Nagal goes down fighting against world No.7 Rune

- HT Correspond­ent sportsdesk@hindustant­imes.com

A gritty Sumit Nagal took an erratic Holger Rune the distance before eventually going down 3-6, 6-3, 2-6 in their two-day, rain-interrupte­d second round match of the ATP Monte Carlo Masters.

Taking a set off the world No. 7 Dane but folding up rather quickly in the decider, in a way, summed up the Indian’s week. There were positives aplenty: forcing Rune, the 2023 finalist who has two ATP titles on clay, into a decider on the back of taking down the world No. 38 as the first Indian singles player to win a Masters main draw match on clay coming through the qualifying rounds. There were also lessons aplenty: grinding down opponents from the baseline is Nagal’s forte and he did that to Rune too, but when such top players raise their level and shot-making, a bit of variety and a finer serve would make the 26-year-old even more competitiv­e.

The second-round appearance in the season’s first clay court Masters, though, is set to take Nagal to a new career-high spot of 80 in the ATP rankings. It carries promise for the rest of the clay swing leading into the French Open as well as securing a singles spot for India at the Paris Olympics (also to be played at Roland Garros).

“I didn’t like the way I finished (against Rune). I could’ve served better and (not made) a few errors that changed the scoreline so much. But other than that, if you look at the tournament, I’m really happy with the way I played the three rounds,” Nagal said.

Resuming play with Rune facing a break point leading 6-3, 2-1, Nagal got off on the right foot by winning the point that mattered to level things

I didn’t like the way I finished. I could’ve served better and (not made) a few errors. But other than that, if you look at the tourney, I’m happy with the way I played SUMIT NAGAL

up. On a brighter Thursday compared to the damp Wednesday, the Indian fancied the conditions more and felt “a little better on court”. Rune took some time to get going and Nagal pounced on it, getting another break in the eighth game and closing out the set the following game converting his second set point.

The Dane picked things up in the decider and knocked at four break point chances in the second game. While Nagal saved a couple of them capping off lengthy rallies with winners from the baseline, he netted a feeble forehand at the fourth time of asking. Nagal was still in for a fight and broke back immediatel­y.

However, after Rune broke to love to go 4-2, Nagal’s flounderin­g serves and baseline prowess further lost steam.

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