Del Potro downs Cilic, rain halts Rafa in New York
Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:41
Juan Martin del Potro recovered from a slow start against Marin Cilic to reach the US Open semi-finals and was gifted an extra day’s rest than his final-four opponent as the evening session’s final match between Rafael Nadal and Fernando Gonzalez was washed out by rain.
The No.6 seed did not have it all his own way against the man that blasted his way past Andy Murray in the previous round, but converted all eight of his break point opportunities at the first attempt as Cilic’s nerve deserted him to win 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-1.
Cilic picked up where he had left off against Murray as the two giant 20-year-olds traded blows from the baseline, denying the Argentine a sniff on his serve and clinching a single break to claim the set before breaking in the first game of the second set.
But after the Croatian saw a 0-30 lead on del Potro’s serve disappear at 1-3 in the second set, the momentum shifted firmly in favour of the Argentine, who reeled off five straight games to take the second set.
That psychological blow rocked Cilic and spurred del Potro, who raced away with the next two sets for the loss of just three games, clinically dispatching the Croatian with a series of punishing side-to-side baseline exchanges to reach his second grand slam semi-final of the year.
“It was a good comeback, you know, the crowd cheering for me at 1-3 in the second. I started to play better after that moment,” said del Potro, who lost in five sets to Roger Federer in the French Open semis in June.
“Of course, I need to improve for the semis a lot, but I’m happy with my match and with the result.”
de Potro arrived in New York well-rested, having taken two weeks off after winning in Washington and reaching the final of the Rogers Cup, where he lost to Murray. His focus, he told reporters, was always on Flushing Meadows.
“I like to play here in US and I like hard courts. I like this tournament, I like everything, so I work hard for this part of the year,” said del Potro, who awaits either Nadal or Gonzalez in the last four. “My dream is to win this tournament. I’m so close to doing it but now I am focusing on the semis. Both players so tough for me and they will want to win like me.”
The Argentine will have at least one extra day’s grace than his semi-final opponent after the first rain of the fortnight halted play midway through the last of the quarter-finals with the match poised on a knife-edge.
Rafael Nadal leads Fernando Gonzalez by a set after taking the first set 7-6(4), but the match was suspended in the middle of the second-set tiebreak, with Nadal 3-2 up and Gonzalez set to serve.
The Spaniard is probably the more grateful of the two to have been granted the extra rest as the abdominal strain that has dogged him throughout the tournament flared up again, requiring a medical time-out and leaving him wincing in pain.
There had been doubts whether or not Nadal was capable of withstanding a fortnight of grand slam tennis on his return to action after a ten-week absence with tendinitis in both knees.
The match has been rescheduled for Friday along with the women’s semi-finals, but with heavy rain forcast in New York for most of the day, organisers could face the prospect of a second Monday final in two years and a major scheduling headache for the weekend.
Last year’s men’s singles final between Roger Federer and Andy Murray was played a day late after Tropical Storm Hanna hit the American east coast.