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del Potro Repeats US Open Win Over Federer; Both Qualify For Semi-finals

Posted by on Nov 26th, 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.

Both Juan Martin del Potro and Roger Federer qualified for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals semi-finals after the Argentine repeated his US Open triumph over the 2009 ATP World Tour Champion in the final Group A singles match Thursday evening at The O2.

Fifth seed del Potro held his nerve to defeat Federer 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3, meaning that there was a three-way tie between del Potro, Federer and Andy Murray, who all had a 2-1 match record and a 5-4 sets record. The group was therefore decided on percentage of games won, which saw Federer (44-40) emerge as winner and del Potro (45-43) qualify in second place, pipping Murray (44-43) by just one game.

Murray had earlier won his final round-robin match in three sets against Fernando Verdasco to end the Spaniard’s campaign and was awaiting the result between del Potro and Federer to learn his fate.

It is the first time in the 36-years of the round-robin format at the year-end championships that the tie-break was decided by games won percentage. Overall, in the history of the season finale (since 1970), it is only the fifth time that a player with a 2-1 round-robin record did not get into the semi-finals, when it was decided by sets record. The other players to have compiled a 2-1 record and not qualified are Patrick Rafter (1997), Wayne Ferreira (1995), Boris Becker (1991), Brian Gottfried (1976).

“I played good tennis today, similar than New York, a little better in some moments of the match,” assessed del Potro. “I served good in important moments. I took my opportunities. That’s what I have to do against the best player in the world: take the opportunities and try to play the best tennis.

“My best match [ever] was the final of the US Open. But I feel better again since the US Open, and that’s important for the next matches.”

“I thought he played a really good match,” complimented Federer. “I thought he was able to lift his game after the first two matches, where I just thought he looked a bit weary. So for me it’s a tough loss. But, sure, I’m happy I’m through. That it got so close with the other two guys, it’s quite incredible. I am, in a way, surprised myself it came down to a couple games.

“I’m excited to be through. But I wished I could have won today. That would have given me extra confidence. Now it’s the way it is. But I got a day to rest, which is probably a little advantage.”

It is the seventh time in eight appearances at the season finale that Federer has progressed to the semi-finals. The only blemish on the Swiss’ otherwise perfect record came in Shanghai last year, when Murray defeated him in three close sets to end his campaign in the round-robin stage.

The 28-year-old Federer is a four time former winner of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, triumphing in 2003 (d. Agassi) and ’04 (d. Hewitt) when it was staged in Houston, and again in 2006 (d. Blake) and ’07 (d. Ferrer) at the Qi Zhong Tennis Center in Shanghai. He also finished runner-up in an epic five-set finale in Shanghai in 2005, squandering a two-set lead against David Nalbandian.

Del Potro, 21, made his debut at the season finale in Shanghai last year and failed to advance past the round-robin stage, compiling a 1-2 mark.

It could have been a very different outcome in Group A, had del Potro claimed the second-set tie-break in which he led 5-4 with two serves to come for a straight-sets victory – which would have seen him and Murray go through at the expense of Federer.

The Tandil native, who battled to victory over Federer in an epic US Open final, showed form reminiscent of that which won him his first major as he blitzed Federer in the first set. The tallest Grand Slam winner ever, at 6’6’’, del Potro served strongly and attacked well with precision at the net as he broke the Federer serve in the first and fifth games to assume a one-set lead.

Del Potro very nearly went ahead in the first game of the second set, with Federer escaping by the skin of his teeth as his forehand volley clipped the top of the net and trickled over del Potro’s side to save break point. The Argentine looked set to not rue that missed opportunity, though, as he opened up a 5-4 lead in the eventual tie-break when Federer netted a regulation forehand volley. However, nerves took hold of del Potro and two unforced errors later it was Federer who held set point, which he converted exquisitely with a drop shot to draw del Potro in before placing a winning volley past the Argentine.

With calculators working furiously as each game ticked by in the final set, changing the scenarios by the minute, Federer looked set to take control as he worked up a 15/40 lead in del Potro’s service game at 3-3. The Basel native was unable to convert either opportunity though and immediately paid the price as his serve was broken to 15 and del Potro secured the victory with his 11th ace of the two-hour, six-minute encounter.

“Obviously the focus was completely on my own qualification,” reflected Federer. “I knew I wasn’t looking very good at 6-2, 4-4 let’s say. Still trying to find my game and everything. It reminded me a lot like the first couple matches I played in the round robin. I just started slow. Never really found my game. Also had a tough start to the breaker. Just tried to hang in there. He served a great serve at 5-4, then missed that forehand. I knew I couldn’t lose in two sets because I knew that was going to knock me out. That’s why I was very excited having won the second set.

“It was disappointing to lose at the end against Juan Martin, who I already lost against at the US Open. I had chances at 3-3. Had a couple of break points. Had him on the down the line backhand and stuff, so it was unfortunate.”

Del Potro came into the season finale struggling with an abdominal injury that forced him to retire in the second round of the Shanghai ATP Masters 1000, presented by Rolex and the quarter-finals of the BNP Paribas Masters, but this week has rediscovered the form that took him to three hard-court tour-level titles earlier in the season. In addition to his US Open triumph, the right-hander defeated Sam Querrey to claim the Heineken Open title in Auckland and beat Andy Roddick to prevail at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington.

The 28-year-old Federer regained the crown of ATP World Tour Champion earlier in the week on the strength of a stellar season that has seen him reach the final of all four majors. The Swiss opened the year with a runner-up finish to Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open before completing the career Grand Slam at Roland Garros with victory over Robin Soderling. He then edged Andy Roddick in a marathon Wimbledon final to clinch a record-breaking 15th Grand Slam singles title.

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