US OPEN champion Juan Martin del Potro will not be complacent in his search for future grand slam glory, despite landing his first title with a defeat of Roger Federer.
The 20-year-old from Argentina scored one of the upsets of the year at Flushing Meadows when he beat world number one and five-time defending champion Federer in five sets to claim the US Open men’s singles title in his first grand slam final.
It was del Potro’s first victory over Federer in seven attempts, denying the Swiss star a 16th grand slam title, ending a 40-match winning streak at the tournament and preventing him from becoming the first man since Bill Tilden in the 1920s to win six US national championships in a row.
Furthermore, the 6ft 6ins Argentine became the first man to beat both Federer and Rafael Nadal en route to a grand slam title and that, he said, gave him tremendous encouragement, albeit tempered with a dose of realism.
“I just want to live this moment”, said del Potro, when asked about the possibility of going on to more grand slam success.
“Of course I will be in the history of this tournament, that’s amazing for me. I have new opportunities in the other grand slams to win, because if I did it here, if I beat Nadal, Federer and many good players, maybe I can do one more time. But, of course, it will be difficult, because I was so close to losing.”
Del Potro looked in danger of going the way of Federer’s five previous US Open final victims – Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray – when he lost the first set 6-3 and had two set points against him in the second.
He saved them both and broke the Federer serve, going on to take a tie-break and level the match. He then fell behind again when he lost the third set 6-4 on successive double faults and yet again fought back in the next set with a tie-break victory to level the match and take the champion into his first five-set final at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
An early break of serve put del Potro in charge and he closed out the match with the loss of just two games as if he had been through the experience in a grand slam 100 times before.
The rookie finalist said he actually took inspiration not just from the crowd but also from the player across the net to keep going whenever the momentum of the match started to drift away from him, particularly at the end of the third set.
“At that moment I started to think that the final, playing with Roger, the best player in history, I had nothing to lose,” said del Potro.
“The crowd helped me, and they saw me fight in every point. So I think that helped me. I was so nervous but maybe when I feel nervous I saw Roger and he’s a gentleman player. We have to learn many things from him. I did that many times today.”
For Federer, it was the sixth grand slam final defeat of his career but the first time he had lost a final to someone other than his great rival Nadal.
“No problem,” the outgoing champion said. “He deserved it, he played well. I don’t know what to say. Rafa, we’ve had some epic ones, sure, great ones over the years. Who knows, maybe del Potro is going to join that as well. I wish him all the best for the future.”
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