Sumit Nagal stunned compatriot and third seed Yuki Bhambri in straight sets (6-4, 6-0) in the semi-final of Bengaluru Open 2017 at the Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association (KSLTA) stadium on Friday, November 24, to reach his maiden ATP Challenger Final.
Nagal, ranked 199 places below Bhambri at 321, did not lose composure even as the two players traded breaks towards the end of the first set.
However, Bhambri, with an uncharacteristic error, conceded a crucial break to let Nagal take a 5-4 lead, after which the latter held his serve to take the set.
One-sided second set
It was one-way traffic in the second set. Nagal served a bagel to wrap up things in an hour and seven minutes as Bhambri ran out of ideas towards the end of the match.
Bhambri could have made the main draw for next year's Australian Open if he had won the title in Bengaluru. However, the semi-final defeat means the world number 122 needs to work his way through the qualifiers of next season's first Grand Slam.
"Today, I had nothing to lose. He [Bhambri] was under pressure. He is number one (India's top-ranked men's singles player). If he had won this match and maybe tomorrow, he would have made it to the main draw (Australian Open). But I was not thinking about the outcome. I had to go through the process. I had the same goals as yesterday -- to do my best and play the game I was supposed to play," Nagal said at the post-match press conference on Friday.
It seemed the 20-year-old drew a lot of confidence from his straight-set win over top seed Blaz Kavcic on Thursday, November 23.
It was evident from the way he hit winners at will and forced his opponent, who headed into the tournament after winning last week's ATP Challenger in Pune, commit quite a lot of unforced errors.
Nagal was retrieving almost everything on Friday, thanks to his ability to cover ground quickly.
The young Delhi lad had good control over his shots and was looking confident with his forehand winners as well. He also used the slice to good effect on Friday.
Nagal banks on home crowd
Nagal will now take on 19-year-old Jay Clarke of Great Britain, who defeated lower-ranked Tsung-Hua Yang of Taiwan 6-3, 6-4 on Friday, in the title match on Saturday, November 25.
Speaking of Saturday's opponent Clarke, Nagal said: "I have seen him play. We had played juniors together. So I know his game. We both have the same pressure: It's also his first ATP final. The crowd, I hope, is going to be with me. I am from this country."