© Intrum Stockholm Open

Juan Martin del Potro beats Fernando Verdasco to give himself a chance to defend his Intrum Stockholm Open title.

Del Potro Sets Dimitrov Clash in Stockholm Final

Dimitrov enters the final with two straight wins against del Potro

Two former champions will battle it out for the 2017 Intrum Stockholm Open title as reigning champion Juan Martin del Potro outlasted eighth seed Fernando Verdasco on Saturday in a tussle between two of the biggest forehands in tennis, 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(1), to set up a clash against top-seeded Grigor Dimitrov.

“It was a great match. We both played great tennis and I think the crowd enjoyed our game,” del Potro said. “I’m glad to be in the final once again.”

Del Potro is into his first final of the season, and his first overall since lifting the trophy in Sweden last year. The right-hander will attempt to win his 20th title on Sunday.

The match will be of the utmost importance for del Potro in the Emirates ATP Race To London, as he has made a late-season charge to put himself within striking distance of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals. The 29-year-old is now into 15th in the Race with 2,035 points, and can ascend to 14th with a victory. If he beats the 2013 champion, del Potro will be within 470 points of No. 9 Pablo Carreno Busta, who has 2,605 points and currently holds the final qualifying spot with No. 7 Stan Wawrinka out for the season due to injury.

It was not easy for del Potro to give himself that opportunity to make a move in the Race, as the veteran left-hander Verdasco pushed the Argentine the distance.

Verdasco earned an immediate break of serve in the third set to gain a 2-0 advantage with his forehand keeping his opponent on the back foot, but del Potro roared right back with a break of his own, using his own timely forehands. The ‘Tower of Tandil’ then saved a break point at 3-4, which would have allowed Verdasco to serve for the match. Once the pair got to the tie-break, it was all del Potro.

“I was focused during the third set and in the tie-break I broke a few times at the beginning and that allowed me to play with more confidence in my game on my serve,” del Potro said. “I played a good match today.”

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Del Potro will not have it easy on Sunday as he attempts to defend his title against an in-form Dimitrov. With his 6-3, 7-6(2) semi-final victory over sixth seed Fabio Fognini, the Bulgarian moved up to No. 5 in the Race, and put himself in position to win a career-best fourth title of the season (Brisbane, Sofia, Cincinnati).

Del Potro leads in their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 5-2, but Dimitrov has won the past two matches, both straight-set victories this year in Beijing and Cincinnati.

“I would love to defend my title but Grigor is playing so good. He already beat me in Beijing and Cincinnati as well and he’s playing such good tennis on this surface,” del Potro said. “Hopefully I can be ready to put up a good fight.”

 Watch Full Match Replays

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