“It’ll be a quick tennis match, that’s for sure.”

Sumit Nagal was at his prophetic best last Friday after setting up a first-round clash against 31st seed Alexander Bublik at the Australian Open.

Bublik, a 26-year-old Kazakh is known for his big serve, powerful groundstrokes, and penchant for the uncanny. He will toss in a mixture of dropshots and underarm serves to go along with his rhythm-breaking slices – all go well with his love for keeping points short.

Nagal expected a short match on Tuesday at Melbourne Park. But the India No 1 singles player, ranked 137 in the world, would not have imagined that it would have been him who would come up with a straight-sets 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (5) win in a two hour and 37-minute contest.

In the process, the 26-year-old Nagal became the first Indian singles player to beat a seeded player at a Grand Slam since Ramesh Krishnan beat top-seed Mats Wilander at the 1989 Australian Open.

As a qualifier, Nagal couldn’t have received a more favourable draw. Though Bublik has won three ATP Tour titles and reached six more, the Kazakhstan player has a poor Grand Slam record, failing to go past the second round in six of his eight appearances.

The world No 27, despite his attractive game, is temperamental. On Court 6 of Melbourne Park on Tuesday, he struggled to deal with the windy conditions. Though he served up 13 aces, he also committed nine double faults to go with it and had a first serve in percentage of just 53%. Nagal, in contrast, had just one ace, made no double faults and landed his first serve in 75% of the time.

Speaking after the match, Nagal said, “The plan was to keep the first-serve percentage very high and not give Sascha [Bublik] too many chances, too many look-arounds where he can pressure in the second return, and I think I did that pretty well.”

Both players began the match by dropping games on their serve before Nagal won three games in a row to open a 4-1 lead. However, Bublik showed his quality to win the next two games. Nagal held his serve to stay ahead and eventually take the first game.

The second set was an easier one for Nagal as Bublik racked up the unforced errors even as Nagal kept it simple at the other end to win the set 6-2 in 43 minutes.

Even amidst doing the simple things, Nagal would come up with shots that displayed his quality. Midway through the game with the scores at 3-3 in the third set, Bublik played the softest of drop shots. Nagal was on to it in a flash and smacked a forehand winner and then followed it up with an outrageous forehand return winner on the next point.

That passage of play helped Nagal win the first break of the set and he followed it up with a love-hold to come within a game of reaching the second round.

However, Bublik finally showcased his quality, winning the next three games to take a 6-5 lead before Nagal eventually took the set to a tie-break.

The Indian had the momentum on his side and he duly brought up three match points. Bublik fought back to save two.

On the third match point for Nagal, in what perhaps best summed up Bublik’s game, the Kazakh committed a double fault.

Much of this match depended on what form Bublik would turn up in. Would he come in with the mentality of being a player ready to beat the best – which he does have more often than not. Or will he come in as the temperamental star who will let the conditions get the better of him and throw away points.

The latter appeared. But taking nothing away from Nagal, he was ready to play and willing to work hard for every point. He deserved the win.

It was over a year ago when Nagal last played in the main draw of an ATP event, when he lost in the first-round of the now-defunct Pune Open. Since then, Nagal had struggled to even get into the main draw of Challenger Tour events.

Even his journey in Melbourne hasn’t been an easy one. A standoff with the All India Tennis Association saw the national body refuse to send Nagal’s nomination for a wild card to the year’s first Grand Slam. It forced the player from Jhajjar, Haryana to work his way up through the qualifying rounds.

Nagal then had to battle an ab injury in the final round of qualification before eventually securing his place in the main draw.

As fans made themselves available for autographs and selfies behind Nagal’s chair at Court 6, the Indian spent a couple of minutes catching his breath and allowing his body, which has borne its share of scars, to relax.

It was only then that he allowed himself a moment of celebration.

In that roar, you could feel the pent-up frustration of the last 12 months being released.

“[I am] enjoying the moment, because you have to kind of enjoy this,” Nagal said. “It doesn't stay forever. You never know in tennis what happens next. That's what my coach says: You have to enjoy the moment, live in the present.”

Nagal will next take on 18-year-old Shang Jungcheng of China in the second round with the winner potentially facing two-time Major winner Carlos Alcaraz in the third round.

Bhambri bows out

Yuki Bhambri and his Dutch partner Robin Haase bowed out in the men’s doubles first round. The pair lost 1-6, 7-6 (8), 7-6 (7) to the pair of Nicolas Barrientos and Rafael Matos.

The Indo-Dutch pair had multiple match points in the second and third sets but failed to convert them.

Rohan Bopanna and his Australian partner Matthew Ebden will begin their men’s doubles campaign on Thursday.