Del Potro Ends Federer's Five-Year Run - Wins His First U. S. Open
September 14, 2009 -- Roger Federer began his pursuit of an historic 6th U. S. Open men's singles title with a flurry, as he sprinted for a winning forehand. It brought the stadium crowd to their feet. He was pumped and Juan Martin del Potro, in his first-ever major final, was nervous. His deadly forehand was asleep on the job. His monstrous serve out to lunch.
First set Federer.
In the second, Federer's continued to demonstrate how the greatest of all time masters an opponent new to the hallowed halls of Arthur Ashe Stadium in a final. But he couldn't hide the fact the he was less than 40% on first serve percentage. His ground game sustained his momentum and his second serve was healthy. At 5-4 he served for the set.
But there came a point... one point that diverted Federer's attention. Del Potro snuck a winner past Federer, which was called out but overruled following the Argentine's challenge. Federer is no fan of Hawkeye, the electronic ball-tracking system, and insisted that it had locked on the wrong ball. He pointed at the mark, but to no avail. Del Potro evened the set at 5-games all.
Had the mighty Roger Federer won the second set, he would have won his sixteenth Grand Slam title and his sixth U. S. Open crown. But he did not.
Juan Martin del Potro grabbed the set in a tiebreak and righted his sinking ship to show the world his brand of championship match play. The turn of events, after that one forehand winner was amazing. His forehand clicked on and his serving percentage went up. He had felt the possibility of victory in that interlude. He held on tightly to it, the way a relay runner squeezes the baton in the last leg of an Olympic race.
Second set del Potro.
"When I won the second set, I think if I continuing playing same way maybe I have chance to win," del Potro said.
"I got off to a pretty good start, and had things under control as well in the second set," Federer said. "I think that one cost me the match eventually. But I had many chances before that to make the difference."
Signs of hope for Federer fans blinked on and off, as his first serves slapped the net cord time after time. Del Potro handed Federer his opportunity to serve out the third, though, when the #6 seed double faulted away the eighth game in the third set.
Third set Federer.
"When I lost the third set, going to break up," del Potro began, "I start to think bad things. It was difficult to keep trying to keep fighting. But one more time the crowd and the fans helped me a lot to fight."
Roger Federer was 24-8 in tiebreaks won and lost, as he entered tonight's final. He is now 24-10, having lost both tiebreaks and having lost them in remarkable ways for the man who seems to rise to the Grand Slam occasion when pressed. But his serve remained poor. His confidence had to have suffered.
However, it was Juan Martin del Potro who pressured the Swiss with thunderous forehand after forehand, accurate and with stunning speeds. Federer was left with nothing, and could not regroup. And when nothing is up against fate and history, the signs point in one direction -- change.
"I focus big every time and good feeling with my forehand," del Potro said. "I think was the key of the match."
Fourth set del Potro.
Coming in to tonight's final, del Potro was 0-6 against the number one player in the world. Federer on the other hand had won 40 consecutive matches here and had made 17 out of the last 18 Grand Slam finals. Del Potro certainly should have been the player with shaky hands... this was his first Grand Slam final. He was performing in front of what is arguably the toughest fan crowd in the universe. However, it was Federer's unforced errors, low serving percentage, and contentious bickering with the chair umpire that undermined the legend's concentration and ability to win.
Fifth set del Potro -- 36 76 (5) 46 76 (4) 62.
Del Potro captured his first Grand Slam title at the U. S. Open tonight on a break, a fitting conclusion to a match that started nervously for del Potro and steadily gained the energy and conviction to launch him past the five-time reigning champion.
"Beat Roger for first time here in my favorite Grand Slam, and two sets to one down, everything, I think it's the best final ever in my life, of course," del Potro said. "But if I beat Roger in three sets straight will be better. But it's impossible."
"It's always an amazing effort coming through and winning your first in your first final," Federer said. "Got to give him all the credit because it's not an easy thing to do, especially coming out against someone like me with so much experience. Towards the end, up 5-2 in the fifth. That was easy. He had to live through some really tough moments earlier in both breakers throughout both those sets to come back. So, his effort was fantastic."
Del Potro is the first Argentine since Guillermo Vilas in 1977 to win the U. S. Open. Del Potro came into the last Grand Slam of the year 15-1. His confidence soared, after having beaten Rafael Nadal in the semifinals... his third victory over the Spaniard this year. Del Potro challenged Federer in the semifinals at Roland Garros this spring, too. The six-foot-six heavy hitter was up two sets to one before Federer ran away with the last two sets.
If you compare the scores between this year's U. S. Open final and the semifinal at Roland Garros, an odd commonality appears. The set scores are exactly reversed in the order of the winner. The match in Paris hinted at the capabilities of del Potro.
"I was 4-5 serving today [in second set] and I did two double faults," del Potro said. "Same like Paris when I was 3-all in the fifth set. I think that, but fortunately it was early. I have two more sets to fight here. Maybe that's helped me."
Del Potro won a total of $1.85 million dollars tonight. Asked what he would do with his money, he answered, "Maybe [buy] cheesecake for my birthday."