Sumit Nagal, who became the first Indian to win a singles match at the US Open in seven years when he beat Bradley Klahn on Tuesday, is counting on his underdog status to give him a mental edge against his next opponent, second seed Dominic Thiem.
Somdev Devvarman was the last Indian to get past the first round at Flushing Meadows in 2013 until Nagal beat American Klahn 6-1, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 to advance in New York.
Thiem advanced to the second round on Tuesday when Spaniard Jaume Munar retired after dropping the first two sets.
Thiem, who reached his third Grand Slam final at this year's Australian Open where he lost to Novak Djokovic, was leading 7-6(6) 6-3 when Munar, who had slipped on the baseline midway through the second set, ended the match.
Nagal, who took a set off Roger Federer during a first round defeat on his Grand Slam debut at Flushing Meadows last year, said he was excited by the prospect of locking horns with Thiem in Thursday's second round.
"I've got nothing to lose," the 23-year-old told reporters. "Last year I played Roger Federer and this year Thiem. It's going to be a great match. For sure, I'm not the favourite."Nagal believes the shortage of matches for both players due to the COVID-19 pandemic could help level the playing field against the Austrian world No. 3.
"I don't think we've had enough match practice on hard courts," added Nagal, who is ranked 124th. "It's going to be the same for both of us for the match on Thursday.”
With player movements being restricted due to safety protocols put in place by US Open organisers, Nagal's plans to get a bit of sightseeing done have taken a hit, and he will spend his down time playing video games instead.
"I'm a guy who likes to stay in as much as possible but... you do feel it a bit," he said. "I wish I could go out and see the buildings, walk on the streets of New York. I'll be on my normal routine... Probably play a game or two on my computer."