Taking into account, the veil of lunacy and unpredictability that has shrouded the 2009 U.S. Open, one might have believed there was no further room for shock. Yet, today, in the finals, 20 year old Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro pulled off the element of surprise by vanquishing world number one and five time defending champion Roger Federer 3-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2 in order to seize his first major.
For the sixth year in a row facing a fresh rival at the tournament’s ultimate dance, Federer was regarded as the overwhelming favorite. Subsequent to a love game, on his fifth break point, Federer used a forehand crosscourt winner to jump to a 2-0 lead. Then, Roger consolidated with a comfortable hold. With Del Potro’s newbie status at the final of a major, he had difficulty encountering his footing the opening set. But, Juan Martin finally got on the board with ease for 1-3. While Federer never dealt with a break point, Del Potro’s treacherous adventure on serve continued. Serving at 2-5, Juan Martin’s forehand error gave Roger three set points. However, with his big serve, Del Potro salvaged the game. Nevertheless, Federer went on to close out the set.
Del Potro started the second with four unforced errors, including two double faults, to hand Federer a break. By maintaining his near perfect play at net, Federer connected on a forehand volley for 2-0. After an untroubled hold by his opponent, Federer’s forehand miscues resulted in Del Potro’s initial break opportunities. With Juan Martin unable to capitalize, Roger stretched his lead to 3-1. Consequently, Roger appeared to be securing a choke hold on another title. Yet, despite multiple chances, Federer failed to capture a potential insurance break. After Del Potro kept the set alive with a love hold at 4-5, in front 30-0, Federer made a couple of errors for 30-30. The next point, Del Potro called on the tech review after a forehand up the line was presumed out. By a hair, Juan Martin was found to be correct. Now, an incredulous Federer stared at break point. Immediately, Juan Martin passed Roger at net with a forehand up the line to square the set at 5-5. Roger’s failure at sealing the set preyed on his mind into a tiebreaker. A forehand error was all Del Potro required for a mini-break and to finish off the set.
An abominable first serve percentage, a rival unwilling to capitulate, a perceived flawed challenge system contributed to Federer’s petulant mood the rest of the way. Roger even had an acerbic exchange with the chair umpire in the third set. To the contrary, Del Potro settled into a comfortable service rhythm. At 3 all and 30 all, Federer floated two straight forehands long to give Del Potro his first lead. But, the next game, Federer blotted out his mistake by making it 4 all. After dismissing another break point and holding, Federer ticked off that Del Potro took a little long to dispute a call utilized his displeasure to get to 0-30. As a result of Del Potro double faulting twice, Federer carried the set 6-4.
In the fourth, at 0-1, in trouble double break point, Del Potro fired a couple of good serves and forehand winners to stay in touch with Federer. Then at 1-2, looking at break point, Juan Martin prescribed the same remedy to hold. Soon, Del Potro baited Federer into three mistakes and grabbed a 3-2 advantage when Roger’s forehand went wide. Serving to consolidate, Del Potro tracked down Federer’s volley and produced a sensational up the line winner. Juan Martin celebrated with high fives to some fans. Even though the crowd respected and loved Roger, the young Argentine’s resiliency had garnered him some new supporters . After all, it was clearly evident that the kernel of belief was germinating in Del Potro’s psyche. But at 3-4, Federer stepped it up with a backhand volley winner. With Del Potro netting a forehand, the players were locked at 4 a piece. Gutsy serving by Del Potro and a forehand up the line winner earned the youngster a standing ovation as the set was again tied. Ultimately, the fourth was decided in a tiebreaker. Federer opened that up with a double fault and never caught up as a result of several forehand errors. So, for the first time since 1999, the championship was settled with a fifth set.
Del Potro forbade Federer from finding the accelerator. Following an easy serving game, Juan Martin benefited from two forehand errors from Roger to obtain double break point. The Argentine blew a forehand crosscourt pass by Federer to take a 2-0 edge. After Roger squandered a break point by spraying a backhand long, Juan Martin was three game away from the most colossal win of his career. Now, despite holding serve, unable to clean up the errors, Federer made no impression on Del Potro’s serve. Under the gun at 2-5, after wiping two break points, Federer double faulted to hand Del Potro his third championship point. With a backhand mistake by Federer, Del Potro took his first major.
Today, Del Potro made history in two ways. Not only did the Argentine halt Federer from matching Bill Tilden’s record of six straight championship, he distinguished himself as the first person since countryman David Nalbandian in 2003 to defeat Federer in NY. After Del Potro’s semifinal lost to Federer in Paris, it was hard to envisage that he would have selected this grand stage for his maiden win in seven attempts over the world number one. Yet, Del Potro’s victory seems a culmination of the promise that he exhibited last summer in claiming four straight titles. Del Potro became the first Argentine since Guillermo Vilas in 1977 to conquer the U.S. Open. Currently ranked sixth, Del Potro will move up one notch.