Del Potro stuns Federer at US Open, will face Nadal in semis

Having saved two match points against Dominic Thiem in the quarters, Juan Martin del Potro came back to register a stunning 7-5, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 win over Roger Federer to enter the US Open semifinals.

Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro will next face Spaniard Rafael Nadal in the US Open semifinal on Friday.   -  Getty Images

Tennis is a lonely sport. And on Wednesday night, under the harsh lights of a stadium that has given him much joy, Roger Federer seemed a lonely man. He had nothing for company—- except a 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (8), 6-4 scoreline that showed all too well his defeat, and a raucous chant of Ole! Ole! Ole! Del Po! that reverberated under the closed roof. 

READ: 'I deserved to beat Federer', says 'lion' Del Potro

Standing across him was 'gentle giant' Juan Martin del Potro, who unleashed the 'best match of his tournament' to dethrone the Swiss King from his unbeaten Grand Slam match streak this year. In doing so, he robbed New York of its eternal craving yet again - a Federer-Nadal showdown. A semifinal for the ages; one last exhibition of genius v brute force. The last time the Argentinian did this was in 2009, when he routed both Nadal and Federer on his way to becoming the US Open champion.    

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN

Del Potro [24] bt Federer [3] 7-5 3-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-4

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS 
Federer - 60/41
Del Potro - 48/32
ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS 
Federer - 17/5
Del Potro - 12/3
BREAK POINTS WON 
Federer - 3/6
Del Potro - 2/3
FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE 
Federer - 61
Del Potro - 67
PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE 
Federer - 73/57
Del Potro - 81/51
TOTAL POINTS 
Federer - 125
Del Potro - 131

 

Federer’s loss was shocking, and yet, not entirely surprising. An undercurrent of anxiety had always tinted the excitement of watching him play at the US Open this year. He had only recently injured his back, and yet there he was, running down corners to obstruct Frances Tiafoe’s winners and returning Mikhail Youzhny’s crosscourt shots at warp speed. Federer said he had felt it too. “I knew going in that I’m not in a safe place. I didn't have that feeling at Wimbledon or at the Australian Open, and that's why rightfully so I'm out of this tournament, because I wasn't good enough, in my mind, in my body, and in my game.”

ALSO READ: 'Del Potro has better chance of beating Nadal than me'

And he seemed it. His timing was off. Off-balance and lunging, he shanked forehands and botched sitters. In the players box, Mirka had her head in her hands. Even in the media box, where journalists are not supposed to be cheering, there were grunts of dismay at easy shots that went long. He committed an exasperating number of double faults — five, which, by Federerian standards, is huge. 

In contrast, del Potro, who returned just 48 hours after his epic five-set win over Dominic Thiem, played with great assurance and swagger. His serves, which came crashing down like boulders on an empty road, confounded the ever-ready, ever-alert Federer. Four wrist surgeries later, del Potro’s backhand was said to be a shadow of itself. But today, it clicked like a rifle. 

After a set apiece, the match turned on its heels in a crucial tiebreaker in the third set, which saw Federer let four set points slip by. Del Potro, grabbing at the opportunity, needed only one set point opportunity at 9-8 when Federer sailed a backhand way long. It was high drama at its excruciating best. 

Federer has an enviable ability to reset — to take his time, to start the moment anew. One bad shot never seems to breed another. But even that was missing today as he gave up another break at 2-2 in the fourth set, which del Potro snapped up with a blistering backhand return. He played clean tennis, winning 20 of his 23 points. Federer saved two break points in the fifth game but it was ultimately del Potro, sending a crushing forehand down the line, who lifted his arms to the heavens in triumph.

Nadal, meanwhile, marched past Andrey Rublev 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 to reach his sixth semifinal appearance at the US Open and his 26th overall. In a match that lasted all of an hour and 36 minutes, Rublev was left utterly overwhelmed by Nadal’s mastership - the 19-year-old conceded seven break points and committed seven double faults. “This was a lesson for me. 1, 2 and 2,” he said.