Tokyo 2020: Sumit Nagal registers India's win in singles since 1996; To face World No.2 next
- Sumit Nagal beat Istomin in 3 straights.
- He became only the third Indian to win a singles game in Olympics.
- Nagal could face World No. 2 Medvedev in second round in Tokyo.
Sumit Nagal on Saturday became the first Indian men's singles tennis player to win the opening round in the Olympics since Leander Paes in Atlanta 1996. Overall, Nagal became only the third Indian to win a men's singles match in the Olympics.
Paes had gone on to clinch the bronze medal in men's singles 25 years ago in the Summer Olympics, which remains the only medal won by an Indian tennis player in the Games.
The 23-year-old Nagal kickstarted his Tokyo Olympics 2020 campaign with a 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-4 win over Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin at the Ariake Tennis Park on Saturday.
The young Indian player began the first shot being neck-to-neck with Istomin as the two held on to their serves in the opening set. Nagal, who came into the Tokyo Games, not in his best form, had a break opportunity in the sixth game of the opening set but the Indian failed to convert. Istomin eventually handed the first set to Nagal with a break in the 10th game.
Nagal carried the momentum into the second set and quickly went 2-0 up. At one point, Nagal was serving for the match before Istomin broke his opponent before drawing parity with a win in tie-breaker.
However, Nagal, who has played in the Australian Open and US Open, kept his composure as he clinched Indias first win in men's singles in over two decades.
Zeeshan Ali was the first Indian to win a singles match at the 1988 Seoul Games when he defeated Paraguay's, Victo Caballero. After that, the legendary Paes won the historic men's singles bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Games, beating Brazil's Fernando Meligeni.
Since Paes' historic moment in the Summer Olympics, no Indian could win a singles match as Somdev Devvarman and Vishnu Vardhan participated at the 2012 Games in London but did not manage to cross the first round hurdle.
Nagal, who is coming off a tough season in 2021, will most likely face World No. 2 Danii Medvedev, who beat Kazakhstan's Alexander Bubilk 6-4 7-6(8). While Medvedev finished runner's up at the Australian Open, Nagal has had seven first-round exits on the ATP Tour and has managed to reach the quarter-finals of just three ATP Challenger events this year. His best show had come at the ATP 250 event in Buenos Aires in March when he reached the quarter-finals.