French Open: India's Nagal exits after losing opening round

Sumit Nagal. File photo: AFP/Brennan Asplen

Paris: Sumit Nagal's late resistance was not enough as his French Open debut ended with a defeat against big-hitting Russian Karen Khachanov, who overpowered the Indian in straight sets, here on Monday.
The top Indian singles player, ranked 95, struggled to match the power and range of his fancied rival, losing 2-6 0-6 6-7(5) in the opening round.

Nagal had shocked world number 31 Alexander Bublik at the Australian Open but could not repeat his braveheart act on red clay.

The rain before the match had made the court a bit slower and more suitable for longer rallies. It was a fiery start from the Indian but the Russian had the first break of the match when he broke Nagal in game three.

Nagal, though, did well to come back from 0-40 to save three breakpoints. However, looking for a wide forehand, he made an unforced error to hand his rival the first break of the match.

Rain interrupted the match and resumed after a 21 minute-break. The Russian came out firing on all cylinders as Nagal found it difficult to match the power of Khachanov. It was effortless hitting from the Russian, which Nagal failed to counter.

Nagal had little time to react to the shots as the Russian made him run on both flanks. It was difficult to control or create points.

He was up 30-0 in game seven but Khachanov reeled off four points in a row to get his second break of the opening set, which he served out in the next game with an inside-out forehand winner, albeit after saving a break chance.

He needed solid start to the second set but Nagal dropped his serve in the very first game to go on backfoot. He had two break chances to level the set but Khachanov saved both and broke his rival again for a comfortable 3-0 cushion. Soon it became 5-0 and eventually Khachanov bageled Nagal.

From thereon, it was a herculean task for the Indian to make a comeback. He fought his heart out in the third set, stretching it to a tie-breaker but the Russian's experience helped him end Nagal's fight.

Rohan Bopanna and Yuki Bhambri will compete in the men's doubles along with their respective partners.

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