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After the first quarter-final of the day, between David Ferrer and Janko Tipsarevic, offered the best match of the tournament, the expectations were high for the night match, as the defending champion, Novak Djokovic, was facing the 2009 champion, Juan Martín del Potro. Despite a straight-set win from Djokovic, the hopes were not deceived, as everyone was treated to a match of a very high quality between two great champions.
The match started in a typical fashion for both players. Djokovic was off the blocks quickly, whereas del Potro was faithful to the slow starter reputation he has forged himself over the last few years. It didn’t take a long time for the Serbian to take the set, 6-2, with the kind of dominant play he has shown throughout the whole tournament.
Even the fastest starter can have a lull and the slower, come awake. In the second set, the 2009 champion was alert once more and wasted no time to break an out-of-focus Djokovic at love in the first game. Gone was the erratic play, back were the powerful serve and the forehand that make the delight of fans far and wide. Midway through the set, however, the Argentine gave signs of losing his focus. Those signs sure revived Djokovic, who went to break back as del Potro was serving for the set, in an entertaining game if it weren’t brilliant, as both players alternated between incredible gets and terrible mistakes.
The rest of the set was high voltage tennis, even better than that to which the fans have been treated in the afternoon, especially the last game before the tiebreak, a 17-minute game in which del Potro had great difficulty holding serve and had to fend off three set points to bring matters to a decisive game. The Argentine started with the mini break, but was made to surrender it a couple of points later, and from then on, there was no turning back for Novak Djokovic.
The defending champion started the third set breaking his opponent and even though del Potro fought and tried to claw his way back into the match, there was, for him, no way to breach the Serbian’s thick defensive wall. In the end, Novak Djokovic made one more step towards a successful defense of his title by taking down Juan Martín del Potro, 6-2 7-6(3) 6-4, in 3:06.
The Djokovic of 2011
One element to take out of this match is that we were able to see the Novak Djokovic of 2011, the player who feared no one and beat everyone, the defensive wall every player came to fear facing.
His road to the quarter-finals had been easy so far in this U.S. Open. This match, however, was Djokovic’s first real test of the tournament, and he passed it with flying colours, as del Potro noted after the match:
“It was an entertaining match, at times even, particularly in the second set. Across from me was a rival of high ranking and level. [...] With these players, you get very few chances and if you don’t take them, you lose.”
This really summarises well the impressive match played by Novak Djokovic: tennis at its highest level but with such a physical game that the opponent ends up exhausted at the end, just like it happened with, for example, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open this year.
A gruelling match
It was a gruelling match for Juan Martín del Potro, physically as well as mentally. Against any other opponent, his level of play would have seen him emerge as the winner.
Against this Novak Djokovic, however, it could not be, despite throwing everything and the kitchen sink at him, and the Argentine lamented the loss of the second set, which could have, he thought, changed the way the match was going.
In the end, del Potro was left with a bitter taste, despite his valliant fight, but still sees the positive in the defeat:
“Being in the last eight in a Grand Slam and in my favourite one makes me happy.”
It was also a good conclusion to the Grand Slam season for del Potro, who reached the quarter-finals in Melbourne and Paris (l. to Roger Federer both times), as well as at the U.S. Open, and the round-of-16 in Wimbledon (l. to david Ferrer).
Tied with Laver and Lendl, to face Ferrer in semis
By winning on Thursday night, Novak Djokovic joined Rod Laver and Ivan Lendl in second place for the most consecutive Grand Slam semi-finals, he who will be playing his tenth consecutive on Saturday, when he will face David Ferrer. The record is currently held by Roger Federer with 23 consecutive semis.
The Serbian will face Spanish Ironman David Ferrer for a spot in the finals, which should be, if their semi is anything like their respective quarter-final, another blockbuster match.