Playing Roger Federer was one of the most awe-inspiring as well as annoying experiences at the same time for former India No. 1 Sumit Nagal. Like many others who have played the Swiss great, Nagal also believes the 20-time Grand Slam winner is a "magician" on the court and recently highlighted why Federer is quite difficult to play against.
The 25-year-old is the only Indian player to win a set against the Swiss legend and he did so at a Grand Slam tournament - the 2019 US Open. He had the 20-time Major winner in trouble, winning the opening set of their first-round match in New York before the Swiss unleashed his bag of many tricks.
Speaking to Sportskeeda in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the ATP 250 Maharashtra Open in Pune, India, former world no. 122 Nagal expressed his admiration for the recently-retired Swiss maestro.
"Federer you can call a magician. You don’t know what is coming," Nagal said when reflecting on one of the biggest matches of his career so far.
While the six-time US Open champion's skills spelled magic for him, they often left his opponents clueless about what was coming at them, and Nagal shed light on that aspect of facing the Swiss great.
"That is one of the most annoying parts to play against him that you have no clue," the Indian tennis star continued. "Is this guy going to hit a second serve and come to the net? Is he going for a short cross-court backhand? Or trying to make you (come) in."
"He has too many options, you know. You realize it but in the end, you also need to know what you are capable of and not capable of."
Don't enjoy 'too much' talk about match against Roger Federer, but Roger is huge in India: Sumit Nagal
The experience of playing and winning a set against Roger Federer will always have a special place in Sumit Nagal's memory and in the memories of many Indian tennis fans.
At the same time, the youngster wants to be recognized for a lot more than just that one match against the Swiss great, such as his feat of becoming the first Indian to win a men's singles match at the Olympics in 25 years, when he beat Asian Games gold medallist Denis Istomin at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Having said that, Nagal perfectly understands why his match against the 20-time Major champion is made to be a huge deal, particularly in India, and rightly so. The 25-year-old also highlighted Federer's place in the tennis fanbase in India.
"To be honest, I don’t like it when people say it (a lot), you know," Nagal expressed. "At the end, I lost the match. If I had beaten (Federer) it’s a different story. A loss is a loss…On our ATP website, it doesn’t say, ‘Sumit Nagal won the first set, but lost the 4th set. Wow, pity him'."
"Yes, I don’t enjoy this as much. But in India, Roger is a very big guy and probably the most famous tennis player in India, and I was the only tennis player (from India) to ever win a set (against him). That’s why it became a little bit big," he added.
The Swiss great has played in India just once, back in 2014, when he participated in the 2014 International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) exhibition tournament.