Roger Federer kicks off his campaign for an Open Era record of six US Open titles on Monday night, facing the young Indian Sumit Nagal in his opener. The matchup is likely to have raised a few smiles for obvious reasons but it is unlikely to be all that competitive a first round match for the Swiss.
Nagal had an impressive qualifying run with wins over Tatsuma Ito, Peter Polansky and Joao Menezes. The latter came in a dramatic three setter, having earlier came from a set and break down to force a decider. “It feels amazing,” Nagal said after his win. “The last three Grand Slams I played I was in qualies and I didn’t win a round… Playing the main draw of a Slam feels great. It’s what everyone dreams of. And to play against Federer, I’ve wanted this. I was telling my friends this yesterday. When people told me that Federer plays a qualifier, I was thinking how much I’ve always wanted this.”
Federer will look to get over his Wimbledon heartbreak by seeking the title in New York instead. Having lost after holding match points, he was denied a 21st slam and the opportunity to push ahead of both his rivals when it comes to the slam count. He played just Cincinnati as a warmup for this event, losing his second match to a stellar performance from Andrey Rublev. He isn’t too worried however coming into the US Open. “I’m happy where my game is at. Cincinnati might be a good thing that I lost early, who knows. It’s maybe one of those things that sometimes needs to happen.” Federer said. “Maybe the same thing, played a great Wimbledon. Needed to get knocked down in Cincy, get my act together, train hard. That’s what I did. I’m ready for the US Open.
Nagal is definitely more at home on the clay so his first main draw at a slam being here comes as something of a surprise. The enthusiasm with which he talks about his opponent suggests there he doesn’t see much chance of a shock victory. “He’s just too good. You never want to copy him. If you watch Federer and what he’s doing with the ball and then you try to do the same, you’re just going to break your racquets. It’s never going to happen. That’s why he’s not my idol. Just too good. That’s how I see it.” he said.
Prediction – Roger Federer in straight sets