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Del Potro stuns Federer to claim US Open crown

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:44

The king of New York has been dethroned, and a new star has earned his stripes. Juan Martin del Potro twice fought back from a set down to stun Roger Federer and the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd to beat the five-time defending US Open champion 3-6 7-6(5) 4-6 7-6(4) 6-2 and clinch his first major in his first grand slam final.

The 20-year-old Argentinean No.6 seed won the four-hour final with a gutsy display of power tennis to become just the second South American to win the title since Guillermo Vilas in 1977, and the youngest US Open champion since Pete Sampras in 1990.

My dream done. It’s over,” said del Potro, watched from the stands by Vilas. “I will go home with a trophy, and it’s my best sensation ever in my life. I didn’t have the experiences in these types of matches.

“But I knew I had to keep fighting because it was grand slam final and the crowd was supporting me so much that they deserved it. They lifted me and finally I was able to turn it around mentally. It was an amazing match, amazing people. Everything is perfect.”

“It was an amazing match, amazing people. Everything is perfect” – del Potro

A final that may mark new beginnings for the world No.6 also ended Roger Federer’s incredible run in New York. The Swiss had been bidding to equal Bill Tilden’s record of six US Open titles in a row, and saw his 40-match winning streak at Flushing Meadows snapped in only his third five-set match at the year’s final major.

It was also Federer’s first defeat in a night match, but perhaps more significantly it was Federer’s first grand slam final defeat to a player other than Rafael Nadal. But the 15-time grand slam champion was magnanimous in defeat.

“I’ve had an amazing summer and a great run,” he said. “I’m not too disappointed just because I thought I played another wonderful tournament. Had chances today to win, but couldn’t take them. It was unfortunate. I thought he hung in there and gave himself chances, and in the end was the better man.”

In the end perhaps, but in the early stages of the match there looked to be only one winner. Del Potro’s demolition of Nadal in the semi-finals had suggested nerves would not be a problem, but a grand slam final was new territory for the man who had taken Federer to five sets in the semi-finals at Roland Garros earlier this year.

But in just the second game of the match Federer piled on the pressure, eventually breaking at the fifth time of asking with a superb forehand pass. It was enough for the world No.1 to clinch the first set, and when he broke in the first game of the second set the signs looked ominous for del Potro.

The atmosphere surrounding the match changed when a paper cup dropped onto the court as Federer was serving in game four. Del Potro stopped and called for the point to be replayed, to the annoyance of Federer. The Argentine tried to make the most of his reprieve, bringing up his first break points of the match.

Federer survived, but when serving for the set at 5-4 an overturned call on del Potro’s forehand pass at 30-30 gave the Argentine a chance to stay in the set. Federer pleaded with the umpire to overrule the overrule, but to no avail. This time del Potro snatched his chance, breaking back with another bludgeoned forehand winner and taking he tie-break to level the match.

Visibly riled, Federer slipped 4-2 behind in the third but stormed back as another late HawkEye challenge from del Potro drew an angry response from Federer, directed at the umpire. It seemed to rattle del Potro more than the Swiss, as the Argentine produced two double faults at 30-30 when serving to stay in the set, gifting Federer a two sets to one lead.

But del Potro responded with more sensational tennis. The Argentine’s forehand was devastating throughout the contest, putting Federer on the back foot time and again, while the Swiss produced a comprehensive defensive display to keep the world No.6 in check.

But with both players having played just a day earlier, by the fourth set cracks began to show. Del Potro looked physically spent between points, while Federer’s serve began to desert him. The pair exchanged breaks early in the set before a second tie break, which del Potro lead from start to finish.

It was the first US Open final to go to five sets since Andre Agassi beat Todd Martin in 1999, but while most expected the effort of reaching a fifth to have taken its toll on a flagging del Potro, it was Federer who appeared mentally frail.

His first serve deserted him at crucial times, and he paid the price from hitting into del Potro’s forehand too often as the Argentine shot out to a 3-0 lead.

The nerves that had hampered del Potro at the start of the match were nowhere to be seen with the title in sight, and the 20-year-old sealed a stunning victory when another crushing forehand forced Federer to hit long.

“I had two dreams this week,” said del Potro during the trophy presentation. “One was to win the US Open and the other one is to be like Roger.

“One is done, but I need to improve a lot to be like you,” he said, looking at the five-time champion. “You fought until the final point. You are a great champion. I’m very happy to be here with this crown, with these people, on this court. This will be in my mind forever.”

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