Roger Federer, a 38-year-old father of four, sometimes has the stubble to match . "I played a little bit like my beard today," he said after his first-round U.S. Open match. "Rusty." The beneficiary of that rust was Sumit Nagal, ranked at Indian qualifier no. 1
90 in the world, who stole the first set and looked, briefly, like he might give the no. 3-ranked Federer a fight.
Nagal brought a style of play that could frustrate Federer, when he's still dusting off his game after a 12-day break : smooth movement, heavy topspin balls, and a resistance to errors , Nagal had been playing exclusively on clay from April until the qualifying rounds of the Open, and he brought that classic dirt-baller's consistency. His serve is weak but once he's patrolling the baseline, he's a pretty fluid, entertaining watch . This is the 22-year-old's first-ever main draw match at a major.
The Swiss, for whom the early rounds may look like televised practice, did not look to it himself out there. He burped up 19 unforced errors in the first set, including three double-faults, with just one ace.
The match looked like it could extend into a glitchy Frances Tiafoe : a fast-as-young girl could chase anything down and make a good job GOAT work to close out points. Wimbledon, when Lloyd Harris dinged him in the first set, only to get routed in the next three. Nagal lost, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. He was drowned out in the middle two sets by a fully functional Fed, and only once returned to consciousness in the fourth set.
Here's one wicked angle inside the service box: 
This slick inside-out passing shot:
Despite leveling out the set, Nagal was broken again games later, leaving Federer to serve the match in peace. Nevertheless, this is progress! Mohandas Menon pointed out This is the first time in four tries that an Indian player has played in a main draw match. (Leander Paes did not beat a teenage Federer in a qualifying match back at the turn of the millennium.) Millions of uncles of India and his diaspora are watching on their sports own. Maybe they even heard him observe that Nagal's "going to a very solid career." Sure, he might never play a
While Nagal made the night somewhat trickier than expected, he would not be mistaken for a career-long archival. After the match, Brad Gilbert tested Federer with the gag du jour, and you could see Federer basically in his own time.