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Del Potro scraps his way to victory over Verdasco

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:50

Juan Martin del Potro posted his first Group A win at the second attempt, beating a heartbroken Fernando Verdasco 6-4 3-6 7-6(1) to keep his Barclays ATP World Tour Finals bid alive.

The Argentine, who lost to Andy Murray 3-6 6-3 6-2 on Sunday, produces flashes of the form that saw him beat Roger Federer in five sets in the US Open final back in September, but they punctuated a flat performance from the youngest man in the draw who at times looked keen to be anywhere but London’s O2 arena right now.

The same cannot be said of Verdasco, whose confidence had been jarred following his 4-6 7-5 6-1 defeat to Roger Federer in his opening match. Following some encouraging play in the opening exchanges the Spaniard was soon a bundle of nerves, unable to loosen up and utilise his big forehand.

Verdasco gifted del Potro the first break points of the match with a glaring mishit forehand with the court at his mercy, and was duly punished as the Argentine crushed a safe serve at 30-40 to edge ahead.

Despite being the more comfortable of the two, del Potro failed to capitalise on a punch-drunk Verdasco. He nearly paid the price for allowing him to stay within touching distance when the Spaniard brought up two break points with the world No.5 serving for the set. Some huge serving and more errors from Verdasco averted the crisis, and the Argentine claimed the opener.

After their opening defeats in the competition, a rather flat performance from both men was understandable, but there were encouraging signs that the day session crowd would get their money’s worth as both men injected some pace into their play at the start of the second.

Verdasco found himself under pressure once more in game seven, sliding 0-30 down before holding, but with his belief buoyed the Spaniard took on del Potro’s serve a game later, breaking as the Argentine failed to deal with a smart backhand return down the line before a love hold sealed with an ace leveled the match in style.

The Spaniard was briefly in the ascendency, but del Potro refocused and refused to let him dictate play in the early stages, landing a string of bombing forehands to keep Verdasco in check.

The sting was well and truly taken out of Verdasco’s purple patch when a double fault brought up three break points at 2-3. He saved two, but was beaten by HawkEye on the third, and when del Potro, serving with the new balls, held to move within one game of victory.

Tightening up once more, Verdasco slipped 0-30 down again. He rallied briefly, but still found himself facing match point, saved with a brave backhand pass with del Potro lurking with intent. Regalvanised, Verdasco broke in game nine to keep the match alive, and survived more match points on his serve at 4-5 before leveling.

From there both men staggered to a tie-break, the first decisive breaker of the Finals, and as he had against Federer, Verdasco capitulated, six forehand errors gifting the Argentine the match. It was a sorry end to a valiant battle, and the tears started to flow as Verdasco left the court.

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