Argentina Open: Sumit Nagal goes down fighting in Buenos Aires, pleased to get matches under belt

Tanuj Lakhina
·4 min read

Albert Ramos-Vinolas was under the pump all of a sudden in challenging conditions in Buenos Aires. The wind had been blowing throughout the contest but it was kicking up at this crucial juncture. The Spaniard was 30-40 down at 5-5 and hoping for another big serve. On the ad-court he had opted to get the ball to slide away from the right handed Sumit Nagal at the other end. On multiple occasions in the second and third sets, Ramos-Vinolas had stepped up and ensured the serve had enough spin to veer away or at least produce a short, easy ball for a put away.

But this was not an easy point. He had been 5-2 up after Nagal's groundstrokes went missing and Ramos-Vinolas was doing enough to make the Indian play one more ball each time. Since then, Nagal had reeled off 15 of the next 22 points and was on the brink of an opportunity to take out another top-50 player. The veteran stepped up and this time went down the centre for an ace. This was just his first ace since the opening set and had gotten him back to deuce. A point later, the World No 46 got the luck of the net and the game to force Nagal into serving to stay in the match.

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An errant service game from Nagal handed Ramos-Vinolas the match and passage into the semi-finals of the Argentina Open 250 tournament. The Spaniard winning 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 in just under two and a half hours. But it had been a fruitful week for the World No 150 Nagal who came through qualifying, registered his maiden win on the ATP Tour and then stunned World No 22 Cristian Garin for his first top-25 win. But most importantly for Nagal, he got some much needed matches under his belt having ended 2020 early due to injury. This year, he suffered three straight first round defeats in Melbourne and Cordoba.

Nagal started strongly with some big forehands coming to his aid coupled with an error-prone game from Ramos-Vinolas. The Spaniard struggled with his serve early on and was broken in the sixth game in what was the only break point of the opening set. On his favoured surface, Nagal got the ball to zip with top-spin heavy groundstrokes and was able to chase down balls even when he looked out.

In the second set, the Spaniard went for bigger serves and put plenty of spin to make things difficult for Nagal. The Jhajjar-born didn't help his cause by making numerous errors. Two break points were duly converted by Ramos-Vinolas to force a third set with Nagal making plenty of errors.

At the changeover, Nagal went to the locker room to change shirt and compose himself. It seemed to do the job. The third set started with a tremendous rally and the quality went up a notch. Both players stretched each other from side-to-side and at one point in the set, found each other at the net having chased drop shots down before Nagal's volley was comfortable enough for the Spaniard to send back for a winner into an open court.

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The highlights-worthy points aside, the third set looked to be running away from Nagal with the Indian unable to reign on his unforced errors. The 23-year-old did claw his way back from 2-5 down but in the end ran out of stream. He later acknowledged that the strain of travelling from Australia to South America and playing six matches in couple of days after a long time had taken a toll.

Nagal will take positives in match play from this week and the milestones achieved in playing an ATP 250 tournament. He still has to decide whether to play the qualifiers in Santiago, Chile next week, provided he can self-quarantine per regulations, or head home.

Argentina Open ATP 250 tournament from Buenos Aires is LIVE on EUROSPORT and EUROSPORT HD in India.

Also See: Argentina Open: Sumit Nagal stuns World No 22 Cristian Garin in straight sets to enter quarter-finals

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