Sumit Nagal could not have asked for a better week in Bengaluru as the 20-year-old, who was given a promotion to the main draw in the last minute, won his maiden ATP Challenger event at $100,000 Bengaluru Open on Saturday, November 25.
TNagal outclassed Jay Clarke of Great Britain 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in a hard-fought battle that extended to an hour and 56 minutes at the Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association (KSLTA) stadium.
With the win, Nagal collected 100 ranking points and has risen 96 spots to his career-best ranking of 225.
"It was an up and down match. There were moments where I played smart. There were moments where I didn't play well. But overall I am happy," Nagal, who hit four doubles faults, said at the post-match press conference.
He added: "The crowd was amazing. Like I said, it's the biggest tournament I have played here. I am really thankful to the crowd."
Clarke started the match on a high when he broke Nagal in the very first game, much to the disappointment of the crowd that was rooting for the local star. The Brit, buoyed by the early break, used a variety of shots, including well-timed slices, to put more pressure on his opponent.
The Indian player though came back and converted his first break point to level the first set at 3-3. Nagal then brought out his aggressive game as he did not give his opponent a chance to come back into the set.
However, the 19-year-old Brit, who was also playing his maiden ATP Challenger final, maintained his composure in the second set to force a decider.
The momentum suddenly swung Clarke's way as he was able to dictate play without much resistance from Nagal towards the end of the second set. The local favourite said he was carried away after the first-set win and that he was "smart enough" to quickly realise his mistake.
"It was my first final in an ATP Challenger. There was pressure. I have to get better in dealing with pressure. In the second set, I started seeing the end of the match. I got a little bit defensive over there. Then I realised that I hadn't shook my hands with him [Clarke]. But I was smart enough to change that after a few games," Nagal said.
Nagal failed to hold his serve in the decider but brought out his forehand prowess to break back in the right next game. A powerful inside-out shot not just got the crowd going but also gave him the confidence to finish off the match, according to the former Wimbledon boys doubles winner.
"I think it is the forehand inside-out I hit in the third set when I had a break point [game-changing point]. I hit it very nicely. From thereon, I went more aggressive for the whole set," Nagal said.