US Open 2017: Del Potro Beats Federer At Flushing Meadows
For much of the 2017 US Open it has been about a first ever meeting in New York between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer but like his solitary Grand Slam title, Juan Martin del Potro has denied the Flushing Meadows crowd what they wanted.
The Argentine beat both Nadal and Federer en route to US Open success in 2009 and he will have to do so again after inflicting a first Grand Slam defeat of the year on the Swiss great who claimed the titles in Melbourne and at Wimbledon.
But number 20 will have to wait for Federer as Del Potro will instead take aim at major number two.
Eight years ago, Del Potro beat the five-time champion in five thrilling sets to claim his first major and he needed one less to overpower a below-par Federer with a 7-5 3-6 7-6 6-4 victory, and is in the sort of form that can do damage to those at the top of the game.
Del Potro’s struggles with injury have been well documented and he would surely have added to his 2009 success had he not been beset by a wrist problem that has seen him undergo four surgeries and miss 14 of 36 Grand Slams since his memorable night in New York.
This week he has battled illness, not to mention logic, in somehow coming back to defeat to Dominic Thiem to set up his Federer rematch that thrilled the crowd for almost three hours on Arthur Ashe Stadium in the final match of the day.
It was an exhausted Del Potro that was still standing, much to the delight of the noisy Argentine crowd who again made their presence felt and were rewarded with an address in Spanish from their hero.
“I think it’s my home court too – you make me feel happy every time when I play here and I love your support,” Del Potro said in his on-court interview.
“I know against Rafa the crowd will be tough for me but I hope you are cheering for me again. He is number one in the world, but with this amazing support anything can happen.”
Federer was below his best, firing an uncharacteristic 41 unforced efforts to go with a string of trademark winners, but having seen the man nicknamed the Tower of Tandil claim the opening set he battled back to level the match.
The third set was to prove pivotal as Del Potro struck first to lead 4-1 as a couple of early five-setters in the tournament looked to be taking their toll on Federer but, as is his way, he bent the match to his will and somehow forced the tie-break.
In a roller-coaster breaker, Federer wasted four set points and was punished by Del Potro who never looked back with a single break of serve enough in the fourth as Federer was unable to force an opening on the Argentine’s huge serve.
Next up will be Nadal, who he dismantled for the loss of just six games in the 2009 semi-final and, despite the US crowd’s hopes of a Federer-Nadal New York debut being crushed, there will not be many who begrudge Del Potro his return to the spotlight.