© Getty Images

Juan Martin del Potro will play for Olympic gold in Rio.

Del Potro Downs Nadal, Will Face Murray For Gold

Argentine continues dream run in Rio

Juan Martin del Potro was at his best for over three hours at the Rio Olympics on Saturday, ultimately prevailing 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(5) against Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals. The 2012 bronze medalist will face 2012 gold medal winner Andy Murray for the title on Sunday.

“I am living like a dream,” del Potro told the ITF. “My emotions are so high after every match and the crowds make me cry in every match and I would like to say thank you to them.”

Coming into the week, del Potro had not won five consecutive matches in over two years. The Argentine, who took out top seed Novak Djokovic in the first round, beat Nadal by breaking down the Spaniard’s strength, playing heavy inside-out forehands into the No. 5 seed’s lefty forehand throughout the match. The audacious tactic paid off, as del Potro finished with 18 forehand winners and converted three of nine break point opportunities.

With del Potro serving for the match at 5-4 in the deciding set, Nadal showed his trademark fighting spirit. The 2008 gold medalist staved off elimination by breaking back at love with a vintage forehand pass. But Nadal ripped an inside-out forehand wide on del Potro’s third match point in the deciding tie-break to bow out.

“It was a good match, good level of tennis and all I can say is congratulations to del Potro. I try my best, I give my best till the last ball... I am very satisfied by what I did the whole week,” Nadal told the ITF.

The Spaniard will face Kei Nishikori, who lost to Murray in the semi-finals, for the bronze medal on Sunday. “Tomorrow is another day and I going to try to be ready for it," Nadal said.

Murray imposed his will on Nishikori, winning 6-1, 6-4 in 80 minutes.

"I played really well and I served well, by far the best this week," Murray told the ITF. "That last service game I think was the only one that went to deuce on my serve, maybe two in the match, but I didn’t give him any opportunities on my serve and I was very aggressive when I was returning.

“I'm happy that I'm guaranteed a medal after today but the goal is to win a gold medal so I will give it my best effort tomorrow to win another one."

Murray was nearly untouchable on serve, landing 76 per cent of first serves and never facing break point. He dominated backhand exchanges from the baseline and won nine of 13 net approaches. Outmatched from the first ball, Nishikori was able to win only 39 total points to Murray’s 61. The Japanese star went for broke on his forehand and saved Murray’s first two match points, but succumbed shortly thereafter.