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Del Potro triumphs in US Open

Posted by on Sep 14th, 2009 and filed under  Top Stories, Latest News, Tennis. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

DelPotro_0914Roger Federer had contested 20 Grand Slam finals prior to his 3-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 loss to Juan Martin del Potro in the 2009 US Open final, but he had only taken defeats to one man, Rafael Nadal, during the five occasions he was unable to hoist the big trophy.

But the world No. 1 had never been asked to do what the 20-year-old Argentine required of him, which was to match his nuclear power over a four-hour period and find a way to hit through and around a younger man who was overmatching him off the ground, was serving bigger and returning with more confidence and force.

Federer had chopped down plenty of pure power players before and had beaten del Potro six straight times coming into the match, but the tall free-swinger from Tandil was less mature then, was lacking in fitness and didn’t really believe that when crunch time came he would have more answers.

But outside of a nervous first set, he largely out-played one of the greatest players in US Open history, a man who had won five successive Opens and who had played so well from 2004-2008 that he was never forced to contest a five-setter in a final.

“Five was great, four was great, too,” said Federer, who won Roland Garros and Wimbledon this year but fell in Australia and New York. “Six would have been a dream, too. Can’t have them all. I’ve had an amazing summer and a great run. I’m not too disappointed just because I thought I played another wonderful tournament. Had chances today to win but couldn’t take them. It was unfortunate. I thought he hung in there and gave himself chances and, in the end, was the better man.”

Del Potro kept hitting out with his forehand, even though Federer’s is oh-so-dangerous, but made the right decision, as he ended the contest with 37 forehand winners to just 20 from Federer. The Argentine had little trouble hammering into Federer’s weaker backhand side with searing cross-court backhands, finally got enough rhythm with his two-handed backhand to be able to pass the on-rushing Swiss, and moved at times, like, well, Nadal.

During the sixth game of the fourth set, after chasing down a Federer blast near the wall and curling it for a forehand winner around the net post, he scooted around, high-fiving the crowd.

A quiet and modest guy, del Potro didn’t back away from the occasion and reveled in it, waving to his large contingent of Argentine fans to get himself pumped up and looking up in sheer joy as they serenaded him with cries of “Ole, Ole, Delpo.”

He faced down Federer in the second-set tiebreaker by blasting an inside-out forehand winner to take the set. He survived a major hiccup in the third set, when he double faulted twice to lose the set.

“When I lost the third set, going to break up, I start to think bad things,” del Potro said. “It was so difficult to keep trying to keep fighting. But one more time, the crowd and the fans helped me a lot to fight until last point. I think I have to say thank you to everyone for that.”

Down 4-5 at 30-30 and just two points from defeat in the fourth set, del Potro nailed an ace and forehand down-the-line winner. He then took the tiebreaker when Federer committed two uncharacteristic forehand errors, and in the fifth set, the 6-foot-6 del Potro stepped on the gas quickly.

He broke Federer early with a wicked forehand cross-court passing shot to 2-0, and at his third match point at 5-2, hit another heavy forehand that a defensive Federer couldn’t handle.

He dropped onto his back, looking like a towering snow angel in search of the first fall signs of winter flurries and later gave a tearful thanks to his family and friends back in Tandil.

“My dream done. It’s over,” said del Potro, who became the first Argentine male to win the title since Guillermo Vilas in 1977. “I will go home with a trophy, and it’s my best sensation ever in my life.

“I didn’t have the experiences in these types of matches. Last night was terrible. I couldn’t sleep. I was playing the best player ever in such a big stadium and in a Grand Slam final, and it weighed heavily on me. But I knew I had to keep fighting because it was Grand Slam final, and the crowd was supporting me so much that they deserved it. They lifted me, and finally I was able to turn it around mentally. It was an amazing match, amazing people. Everything is perfect.”

Del Potro is only the fourth player since Federer won his first major at 2003 Wimbledon to break the Nadal-Federer stranglehold at the majors. One of the other men, 2005 Australian Open champion Marat Safin, will retire at the end of this year. That leaves 2003 U.S. champion Roddick, 2008 Australian titlist Novak Djokovic and del Potro to contend with the Swiss and the Spaniard, who have won 21 majors in that period.

Del Potro is the first guy to beat Nadal and Federer back-to-back at a major — no small feat. Like Safin did to Pete Sampras back at the 2000 US Open, the young guy with a blinding haymaker knocked out a stunned older legend. He has the on-court tools and, apparently, the willpower.

That should clearly make him a significant part of the conversation in years to come in his beloved New York.

“Of course, I will be in the history of this tournament,” del Potro said. “That’s amazing for me. I have new opportunities in the other Grand Slams to win because if I did here, if I beat Nadal, Federer and many good players, maybe I can do one more time.”

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