Wildcard Sumit Nagal exited in the first round of the Australian Open, ending India’s singles challenge at the season-opening Grand Slam on Tuesday.
Nagal, who had become the first Indian man in seven years to win a match at a Major at last year’s US Open, went down 2-6 5-7 3-6 to Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis in two hours and 10 minutes.
The world No 144 had lost to the same player during last week’s warm-up event in Melbourne and struggled for consistency on serve and dealing with the world 73’s groundstrokes.
The 23-year-old earned the first breakpoints of the match but squandered four BPs in just the third game with a spate of unforced errors. He was broken a couple of games later when serving at 2-3, when he hit a forehand long to give Berankis three breakpoints and the Lithuanian converted the second with a forehand winner to go up 4-2. He sealed the first set with another break.
Soon after, Nagal was staring down the barrel after losing serve in four straight games across the first two sets. But, in what proved to be the best passage of play for him, he showed fight to mount a mini-comeback and won four straight games to go for 0-4 down to level at 4-4. But that was the limit of his fightback and he was broken in the final game of the set.
The third set went Berankis’ way as he sealed the straight-sets win an ace after a decisive single break at 4-3.
While Nagal made an impression on his previous two Grand Slam appearances, the India No 2 could only play well in patches on Tuesday. The solid groundstrokes and experience of Berankis left Nagal playing defensively. He did fight hard and played better as the match progressed but Berankis did not falter on key points.
India’s singles challenge is over and now all eyes will be on doubles players – Rohan Bopanna, Divij Sharan and Ankita Raina.