Top seed Federer defeated eighth-seeded Argentine Juan Martin del Potro 3-6, 7-6(5), 19-17 in a dramatic semi-final of the highest quality, on Friday, which lasted four hours and 26 minutes - an Open Era record for a best-of-three sets encounter. The final set alone lasted two hours and 47 minutes.
"I don't think I've ever played as long a set in a best of three match," Federer said. "The whole match was nearly four-and-a-half hours, so it was very physical at the end and so mental. It was very tough from start to finish. I got lucky in the second set to get back and then in the third it was so tough. I was calm but serving to stay in the match so many times is hard and it takes its toll."
"May a bit of fitness was the difference. I liked my attitude today, so I am very happy. I got my first singles medal for Switzerland. I definitely got a sense that it was something special," Federer said.
"I felt very bad for him at net. It was an emotional hug we sort of gave each other. It's not over for him yet. I hope he can make the turnaround and play a good bronze medal match." said Federer.
Del Potro said: "It's not an easy situation. ... Someone always has to win these matches, and today it was his turn."
Federer hit 24 aces and 64 winners past del Potro, who committed 34 unforced errors – seven fewer than Federer. Del Potro struck 51 winners, 11 aces and converted two of his seven break point opportunities. Federer won two of his 13 break point chances and now has a chance at winning his first singles medal at his fourth Olympic Games.
Del Potro had won the first set on three occasions against Federer in 14 meetings, so it was imperative he started well. But, in windy conditions, on Centre Court, it took each player time to settle. Del Potro saved one break point in the third game and Federer fought back from 0/30 in the sixth game.
But the pressure began to tell on Federer at 3-4. Having lost the first point in three of his first four service games, he buckled. Serving at 30/40, Federer found himself over-stretched as del Potro took his chance to attack the net with two powerful crosscourt backhands – the second of which proving too much for Federer’s single-hander. Del Potro coolly closed out the 36-minute set to love.
Del Potro’s readiness to step into the court to strike clean winners off the shortest of balls, forced Federer into a change of tactics. The Swiss began to find terrific angles on his cross-court forehand, which launched him into the net. He came close to taking a 2-0 lead in the second set, but two break point chances went begging. At 2-2, Federer battled through a 14-point game – recovering from 0-30 saving one break – with a mix of power tennis and un-coached artistry to keep del Potro at bay.
Neither player gave anything away to the tie-break, which saw Federer take a 4-1 lead. Del Potro recovered to 4-4 before he made two successive groundstroke errors. Federer hit a forehand long on his first set point opportunity, but at 6-5 he struck his 10th ace of the set. Federer had hit 20 winners and committed 20 unforced errors, but the score was level at one-set apiece.
Game-by-game the tension increased in the deciding set. Del Potro saved four break points to Federer’s two through the first eight games. After several lengthy battles on the All England Club grass this week, the Olympic motto of Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger) was never more appropriate as each player strived to raise their game to greater heights.
Two fortunate net cords got del Potro out of trouble at 7-7, when Federer denied his opponent pace and time with low returns and forays to the net. The Argentine was again under pressure at 8-8, but recovered from 0/30. He won a four-shot exchange at the net with Federer, finishing with a backhand dive volley that Boris Becker would have been proud to have played.
Pockets of Swiss red, dotted around Centre Court, rose together when Federer secured a service break two games later, after del Potro mis-timed a forehand 30/40 at 9-9. But, del Potro proved nerveless. Faced with the prospect of a bronze medal match, he broke Federer to love and the pair’s 15th meeting continued, leaving fans - such as Americans Kobe Bryant and Bill Gates - transfixed.
The drama continued at 14-14, when del Potro recovered from 0/40 with five straight points. Federer then bounced back from 0/30 in the next game. After four hours and four minutes of play, the match officially became the longest best-of-three sets match in the Open Era, surpassing Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic’s semi-final epic at the 2009 Mutua Madrid Open.
Federer missed one match point opportunity at 40/30. When he opened up the court with a forehand approach, del Potro fired a backhand into the Swiss star’s body. Federer netted. The Centre Court crowd groaned. Two points later, Federer turned to his supporters, his hands raised aloft in celebration of a great and memorable win.
Del Potro fought back the tears and received a standing ovation as he left the famous court. He must now rouse himself for a bronze medal match on Sunday.
Date: 3rd August 2012, Source: ATP and AP