Djokovic downs Del Potro in thriller
Originally published on: 05/07/13 00:00
In match of the highest quality on Centre Court, the world No.1 eventually triumphed 7-5 4-6 7-6(2) 6-7(6) 6-3 in the longest semi-final in Wimbledon history.
Del Potro, who had survived an injury scare during his quarter-final victory over David Ferrer, saved two match points in the fourth set tiebreak, but Djokovic finally closed out the match after four hours and 43 minutes.
After four stunning points from Del Potro in the tiebreak to take the match to a decider, the clock ticked over the four-hour mark, and the match soon eclipsed the previous longest semi-final when Boris Becker defeated Ivan Lendl in 1989.
Del Potro, back to the form that saw him win the 2009 US Open, had not won a five-set match in over three years, and he extended his unwelcome record to five successive defeats as Djokovic kept his title bid on track.
With neither player dropping a set in their opening five matches, something had to give and it was Del Potro’s record that fell first as Djokovic snatched a late break to take the opening set.
However, the Argentine, who defeated Djokovic to win Olympic bronze at the All England Club last summer, hit back to level, only for Djokovic to forge ahead once again, winning the third set on a tiebreak.
The Serb looked to be firmly on course for victory when he broke Del Potro early in the fourth set but a heroic effort from the world No.8 saw him break back thanks to some impressive defence that his opponent would have been proud of.
Having kept his hopes of victory alive, he was forced to dig deep once again to save match points and take the match into a fifth set, to the delight of the crowd.
With both men playing some jaw-dropping tennis – Del Potro’s blistering ground strokes regularly exceeded the 100mph mark, while Djokovic’s defence defied belief as he returned shots that to any other player would have been a lost cause.
First Del Potro, then Djokovic, saved break points early in the fifth set, but when Del Potro fired a forehand long to trail 5-3, the Serb finally got over the finish line with a backhand winner down the line.
"It was one of the best matches that I've been part of, one of the most exciting. It was so close, really, you couldn't separate us," Djokovic said.
"I've had some epic matches in my career and some long five setters. I know that I have been pushed to the limit today, as my opponent was also. It was one of the most thrilling matches that I have ever played, especially here in Wimbledon. It was a very high quality tennis from the first to the last point."