Delpo Advances To Second US Open Final
Nine years ago, the Argentine captured his first Grand Slam title here in Flushing Meadows. But four wrist surgeries would send him as low as No. 1,045 in the ATP Rankings in February of 2016. Now, the 'Tower of Tandil' is arguably better than ever, at a career-best No. 3 and trying to come full circle where he first broke through nearly a decade ago.
"I cannot believe that I will have a chance to play another Grand Slam final here, which is my favourite tournament," Del Potro said. "I've been fighting with many, many problems to get in this moment. I'm here now. It will be a difficult match, of course. But anyway, I think I've been doing a good tournament. And in the finals, anything can happen. If I win, great. If not, I've been playing a great tournament and I will be happy."
Del Potro owns more wins against the top player in the ATP Rankings than anyone else who has not held the spot, with 10. He has three more than Michael Chang and Richard Krajicek, who are second on the list with seven victories apiece against a World No. 1.
While leading 4-3, Nadal got his right knee taped, before later ripping it off and getting it taped again early in the second set. But after the Argentine blasted a forehand winner to close out the second set — his 29th winner of the match — Nadal could not continue.
"I waited as much as I can. You could imagine [it's] very difficult for me to say good-bye before the match finishes. But at some point you have to take a decision," Nadal said. "It was so difficult for me to keep playing at the same time that way, having too much pain. That was not a tennis match at the end. It was just one player playing, the other one staying on the other side of the court. I hate to retire, but staying one more set out there playing like this would be too much for me."
It was tough to expect back-to-back breaks right out of the gate, but that’s exactly what happened, as both players made a series of uncharacteristic errors to lose their service games.
But then the competitors raised their levels, with both men going after their forehands more. Del Potro broke and held two set points at 5-4, but could not convert. Yet with the momentum seemingly on the top seed’s side, Del Potro was too strong from the baseline in the tie-break.
Del Potro is known to have one, if not the most, dangerous forehand in tennis, but he was also plenty aggressive off his backhand wing. The Argentine developed a knifing slice after his wrist injury, but he hit through the ball quite a bit off that wing on Friday, striking a couple of massive passing shots for winners. He also did a good job using the wide serve in an attempt to open the court for an aggressive second shot in front of a crowd that included Alec Baldwin and Chevy Chase.
"I can't say that I am happy because I am not. I will not lie you. But, yes, he's a player that went through lot of issues during his career, like me," Nadal said of Del Potro. "I know how much frustration can be when you can't do the thing that you want to do. He knows very well. Happy for him that he's able to be back at his top level. [I] wish him all the best. For him [it] will be huge if he's able to win a Grand Slam again."
Del Potro will face the winner of two-time champion Novak Djokovic and 2014 finalist Kei Nishikori. Djokovic leads Del Potro 14-4 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, while the Argentine has claimed six of eight meetings against Nishikori.
"When I played Roger [Federer] nine years ago, he was the favourite to win," Del Potro said. "I will try to make the surprise again."