This year was supposed to finally be the year where Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal would meet in the US Open. The two have already met 37 times in their careers, including twice in the finals of all the other grand slams tennis has to offer, but never in Flushing, New York. With tennis fans’ favorite rivalry set to take center stage during the semifinals after Nadal made quick work of youngster Andrey Rublev, all Federer had to do was win his own quarterfinals match. The only problem? Juan Martin del Potro.
Del Potro is no stranger to the big stage in Queens; he defeated both Nadal and Federer in 2009 in route to the US Open title–his only Grand Slam title–but it’s been a long road to get here, in 2017. The Argentine national has dealt with a series of injuries, including 3 operations on his left wrist, which have put his career in jeopardy several times.
Despite the setbacks, del Potro has approached every challenge in his way with the heart of a champion. This US Open has been no different, as del Potro captivated the hearts of all tennis fans with his gutsy performances in Flushing Meadows. In the fourth round, the 28-year-old giant played the match of the tournament, coming back from two sets down to defeat up-and-comer Dominic Thiem in a 3.5 hour, five-set marathon. The tennis world rejoiced for del Po’s moment, but it was expected that it would end there, as he was facing the greatest of all time in the following round.
With just a day of rest to prepare for Federer, there were questions of del Potro’s fitness and stamina. He put those questions to bed with as much of a dominant performance as anyone has ever had against Federer in the US Open. Sure, Federer made some crucial errors on his own, but every time he needed to, del Potro came up big. He didn’t even have to go the full length, as Federer succumbed to one of the strongest forearms in tennis history, losing in 4 sets.
Afterwards, del Potro got right to the point, thanking his massive forehand shot for winning him the match against Federer: “I did everything well. I served so good. I hit my forehand as hard as I can. And I think we played a great match and I deserved to win at the end.” Federer acknowledged that del Potro showed up big in the big moments, saying that “he came up with the goods when he needed to.”
Now, the 24th ranked Argentine will move on to face Nadal in his first Grand Slam semifinal since 2013. If he wants to continue his magical run, del Potro will have to reach deep down into his bag of tricks and pull out yet another gutsy performance to reach the final, where an easier matchup should await after the grueling Fedal gauntlet.
Win or lose, however, del Potro will come out of the 2017 US Open as the story of the tournament; one need only look at Twitter after his win over Federer to see how much the big Argentine has captured the hearts of tennis fans around the world.