Juan Martin Del Potro reached his first grand slam final as he demolished third seed Rafael Nadal in their US Open semi-final today.
The sixth seed from Argentina blew Spain’s Nadal away at Arthur Ashe Stadium, taking two hours and 20 minutes to win 6-2 6-2 6-2.
Del Potro will now face the winner of tonight’s second semi-final between five-time defending champion Roger Federer and fourth seed Novak Djokovic.
Nadal had run out of steam by the time he got to the US Open semi-finals 12 months ago, losing to Andy Murray in a match stretched out over two days due to heavy rain, and it appeared to be the case again as he was swept aside just a month into his comeback from a bout of tendinitis in both knees following the French Open.
Nadal had been unable to defend his title at Wimbledon and in his third tournament since returning following almost nine weeks out he found no answer to an all-round display of tennis from the 6ft 6in 20-year-old.
Del Potro overpowered the left-hander on both serve and return, and with forehand and backhand, to deny Nadal a crack at completing a career grand slam.
Del Potro won a low-key opening game and both men had break-point opportunities in the next two games but the Argentinian was the one who finally broke the deadlock, putting Nadal under pressure once again in the fourth game.
The third seed saved the first opportunity but could not prevent the sixth seed making the first significant move of the match to go 3-1 up.
Del Potro took a tumble at 30-0 in the fifth game as he lost his footing behind the baseline but recovered to hold serve and leave Nadal with work to do in the opening set.
It needed a long service game from Del Potro to maintain his advantage, with another ace out wide exploiting Nadal’s decision to stand way behind the baseline.
Nadal, who had not been without chances of his own having earned three break points in the opening set, found himself saving two set points in the next game.
He had rebuffed some huge forehands from Del Potro but the Argentinian finally got one through the defences to complete an excellent first set.
Del Potro held the opening game of the second set but Nadal saw a chance of a break at 0-30 in the third game, only to step in on the Argentinian’s serve and net a backhand return before sending a forehand wide of the line, the sixth seed holding for a 2-1 lead.
Nadal could not find an answer to the variety of powerful shots coming at him from all directions and he was soon break point down again, surrendering a 3-1 lead with a double fault.
Del Potro had last played in the day session on Thursday, beating Marin Cilic before the rains came that prevented Nadal from completing his quarter-final with Fernando Gonzalez until yesterday.
The Spaniard had also aggravated an abdominal strain during the third round, and Del Potro showed no sign of dropping his level as he moved to 4-1.
Nadal saved four break points to win his second game of the set but at 4-2 down he was looking at a mountain to climb.
Del Potro was like a boxer as he took apart Nadal with a deluge of punches, earning triple set point at 5-2 with a powerful combination of forehand and then backhand winner, the second seed stranded at the back of the court.
Nadal had won only four games in the first two sets but had not been without his opportunities, earning five break points but converting none.
He was soon behind in the third set as Del Potro was looking unstoppable, moving to 3-0 up with another booming forehand to win the game to love.
Nadal finally got on the board with holds of serve in the fourth and sixth game but Del Potro was still in the ascendancy, seemingly sending down winners at will as his deflated rival watched them sail by, frustratingly out of reach.
Del Potro was in sight of the finishing line serving at 4-2 and showing no signs of cracking, pushing Nadal around the court, wider and wider until the 23-year-old sent a forehand wide of the line on game point.
Nadal served to stay in the match at 5-2 down but, despite his famous fighting spirit, Del Potro was too strong and the Spaniard netted a forehand and was then passed as the Argentine earned triple match point.
A huge forehand had Nadal at full stretch to return off his own forehand but again he was being sent from corner to corner on the baseline and the match was over when a last, desperate forehand was sent long.