Jeeeeeeez what a marathon match! I never for one minute expected a match of this nature, in fact half of my prediction was spent saying Del Potro's US Open win in 09 was lucky and Roger would own him today so I guess it was quite fitting he came out and played probably the best I've ever seen him play and nearly spoil Roger's gold medal chances.
I figured after Roger had won all 5 matches contested this year between him and Del Po that would surely be enough to get the job done in straights but it was immediately clear that Del Potro meant business – he served bombs from the get go and was on top in a lot of the rallies.
Set One – Del Potro Can Volley??
Like I said Del Potro came out guns blazing, I guess he knew that if he was to stand a chance he had to win the first set and he really went for his forehand and first serve from the off.
Roger started pretty well too to be honest but had a few hairy moments on serve before he finally got broken in the 8th game. You could kinda see it coming because Del Potro was really hitting some insane shots. Strangely he was actually pretty effective at the net, usually he's a complete donkey with little control and drop volleys that bounce to head height but today he was showing deftness and his wing span made him very difficult to pass.
The break meant Del Potro lead 5-3 and I thought Fed might be able to recover the break but Del Potro just blitzed his service game to love. It was impressive really how he almost just nonchalantly stepped up and didn't even blink.
Second Set – High Heat
There's a line of commentary that I always remember from the Australian Open in 2008 where Roger hits an insane inside out backhand against Djokovic in the 3rd set tie break (you can watch it here). Immediately after the point Jim Courier says “the level just went up, the temperature just went to high heat” and that's kinda what happened today in the second set – both players raised their games and intensity was crazy high.
This time around it wasn't just one shot that sparked things up but probably the fact that both players knew this set was must win, obviously more so for Roger but I think Del Potro knew the longer the match went on; the lesser his chance of winning.
The quality probably wasn't the greatest ever, there were shanks, mis-hits and daft errors but some of the shotmaking and points were insane. Del Potro was spanking it round and Roger was defending and retrieving unbelievably well before often getting back on top of the point to hit a winner or draw an error from Del Potro.
This time around it was Roger who had his first sniff of break points in the second game but Del Potro was serving very well under pressure and saved the first with an ace and then won an extensive baseline rally to save the second before holding.
At 2-2 Del Potro had a break point but Fed saved it with an ace, that game went to deuce 5 times but Roger held firm and pulled off a massive hold. In the next game Fed had another break point that was saved yet again this time by Del Potro serving and volleying – pretty admirable play under pressure when it's not his comfort zone style of play.
At 4-4, a crucial stage of the match Roger faced another break point but yet again found the big first serve when he needed it and hit two consecutive aces before holding.
With both players playing clutch on the break points the set went into a tie break and it was Roger who got the better start with a mini break after another crazy rally. He went onto miss a stupidly easy volley but recovered from it well and then hit an immense forehand on the run to stay in the next point to create a set point which he took to level up the match and take it into a 1 set shootout.
Third Set – Marathon Men
I said above a “1 set shootout” but this set was anything but that; I had no idea it would go on for 36 games and last 2 hours and 43 minutes.
After Roger took the tie break I thought he was definitely the favourite to win, he'd settled into a really good rhythm on serve and after Del Potro's reaction after losing the set you felt like he'd finally broken the Argentine's resolve. But nope, Del Potro wouldn't go away and was still serving huge.
Del Potro had 2 break points in the second game but Federer saved them with some top drawer serving and ability to stay in the rally. It was a tricky situation for Roger because he was serving second which clearly puts him under more pressure because Del Potro could really swing freely in his return games to try break. Roger served to stay in the match 5 times before he finally broke Del Potro at 9-9.
After breaking I thought Del Potro was done, he looked pretty disconsolate but Rogers 1st serve went AWOL and the depth on the Del Potro returns drew him into errors as he was broken to love. 10-10 back to square one!
After breaking to keep alive Del Potro got a second wind, he held easily and then got to 0-30 on Feds next service game, a worrying moment but yet again Roger found big first serves and forehands to hold.
I've kinda forgotten what happened from 11-11 onwards but it was more big serving and more great defensive play from Roger to keep himself in the points. With Del Potro maybe looking a little tired, Roger was able to create more and more inroads into his service games, there were plenty of 15-30's and I lost track of how many break points he missed, I think it was like 7 or so. The good thing was that Roger was still serving well, I think at one stage he served 4 love games in a row which is scarily good so late on in a match.
At 17 all Roger finally got another break and had another chance to serve it out, this time he delivered and despite a few shaky moments, a sliced backhand chip and charge from a Del Potro backhand that flicked the net was enough to draw the error from the Argentine as he netted the backhand. Game, set, match Federer. Epic.
The emotions I felt were as strong as winning a Grand Slam almost. But of course you have to hopefully save some for Sunday so you can't go overly crazy. But I was very, very touched at the end. But I was tense. I was nervous,” he continued. Obviously I was seeing myself as the loser many times during the match. But at the same time also I did see myself with medals. So you go through many emotions. You just hope somehow you come out on the other side as a winner and secure yourself a medal, which is now the case.
This match was just another showcase of Roger 3.0 who keeps pulling through matches when they get tight, Del Potro was two points from victory four times in the final set. yet Roger held firm and played clutch when it mattered. He didn't let the fact he got broken when serving for the match at 10-9 disrupt him, he just maintained focus and kept holding serve until he eventually got another break before serving it out to win 19-17. Roger wasn't at his best, the wind made it tricky and he made a lot of errors but he showed determination and that's what got him through and that's all that matters.
A Tough Loss for Del Po
I think this is the best I've seen Del Potro play and on probably his worst surface so it's really a big loss for him. In some senses he's lucky it's only a smaller event like the Olympics and not a Grand Slam because these types of losses can be hard to forget as we know all to well with Roger. He looked upset at the end but I'm sure he will bounce back, after all it's the best he's played in ages so he should take heart from it.
I think most Fed fans like Del Potro because he can be entertaining to watch so felt sorry for him. It's weird really how most people who like Fed like Del Potro too because their game styles are polar opposites but even I have a soft spot for him. I imagine when Roger retires that many of his fans will follow Del Potro closely and hope he can win some more slams.
Predictions vs. Murray
I'm annoyed we got a rematch of the Wimbledon final as we saw that match 2 weeks ago. I wanted to see a Fed/Djoke final but Murray had other ideas. I watched the match between them and it was nothing spectacular, Murray played aggressively but I think that was more because Djokovic allowed him too.
I'm not sure what's happening with Djokovic but he's been a bit of a joke lately, since the Australian final he's not played that well really. I thought maybe he had found his form when he beat Tsonga at the French Open but he's just too defensive. He can't finish points off when it counts and ends up having to do the splits every 2 seconds whilst retrieving. Having that ability is a great help but you can't keep doing it over and over or relying on that to win matches, this is grass so you still get rewarded for attacking play. This was evident last night againt Mugray, he had lots of opportunities to end points but ended up backing off and letting Murray recover before Murray found a winner or he made an error. Guess we will see at the US Open if Novak has lost his form and returned back to his old levels.
Anyway back to the Fed/Murray final, I think it could probably go either way. Obviously Roger won Wimbledon which gives him an egde but there's also the fact he could feel sorry for Murray and not ruthless when it matters. After Murrays tears at Wimbledon, the crowd are going to be seriously in his favour and especially now because the majority of the tickets will be occupied by part time tennis fans/clowns who just want to be part of the Olympics so I hope they don't make too much of an impact or start calling out during points like some douche did in the Fed/Del Po match.
Before yesterday I was pretty skeptical of how important the Olympics were for Roger but he was pretty pumped after winning, perhaps it's a little unclear whether that was solely due to the context of the marathon match or the tournament as a whole but he did kiss the badge which I've not seen him do before so I think he might be up for the final.
I don't think tiredness will factor after him and Del Po were on court for 4 hours and 26 minutes as the match wasn't too physical. It's not like Fed has played loads this week either and most of his matches have been fairly relaxed so he should be fine with a day off before the final.
I think it's easier for Murray this time around because the Olympics isn't a huge deal for tennis so he can definitely play freely which might help him. He only has to look back in the history books and look who's won gold – Rosset, Massu and Kafelnikov to know that's it's nothing like a Grand Slam. That might help him.
It's maybe worth noting that Murray was clutching his back against Djokovic again but I'm not sure what that means, I think it's just fake rather than a legitimate injury, almost like a security blanket for him or something. Whenever he loses a point he looks in agony, whenever he wins one he's fist pumping. It's a joke really and kinda shows he has no class.
Like I say I think this could go either way but I think Fed will probably win it in 4. It may even end up been indoors again which helps Roger even more so we shall see. Anyway I'm team Switzerland for the day that's for sure.