Top 5 U.S. Open Upsets: No. 3, Del Potro d. Federer

by: Richard Pagliaro | August 30, 2012

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The first week of a major is all about upsets: Which highly seeded players won't survive the first few rounds? During the first week of this year's U.S. Open, we're counting down the top five most shocking upsets at Flushing Meadows.

2009, Final: Juan Martin del Potro d. Roger Federer, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2

Federer was a few points from the finish line, but del Potro commanded the baseline in the final set.

Two points from defeat, del Potro dug in and defied the odds, fighting back to deny the five-time defending champion’s bid at becoming the first man to win a major six straight times. In a stirring, four hour, six-minute final played on a Monday afternoon, del Potro snapped Federer's 40-match U.S. Open winning streak in scoring the biggest Flushing Meadows upset since a 20-year-old Marat Safin stunningly swept Pete Sampras in the 2000 final.

The 6-foot-6 Argentine seemed to grow in confidence with each passing game in the final set. Del Potro was so overwhelming at times he was content to spin in his serve and blast away with his flat shots that forced Federer into stretched, defensive positions.

"I don't have words to explain it," del Potro told the crowd. "I have two dreams: one is (to win) the U.S. Open and the other one is to be like Roger. One is done but I need to improve a lot to be like (Federer)."

Competing in just his fourth Open, del Potro became the first man to defeat Rafael Nadal and Federer in a Grand Slam tournament. In Sunday's semifinal, Del Potro dictated play in delivering a crushing 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, victory over Nadal, handing the wounded Australian Open champion his worst thrashing in a major match.

Still, Federer was an immense favorite in the final. It had been 2,200 days since Federer's last U.S. Open loss that came at the hands of another Argentine, del Potro's Davis Cup teammate David Nalbandian, in the 2003 fourth round. Furthermore, Federer was 2-5 in major finals against Nadal, but 13-0 in Grand Slam title matches against all other players.

Quality came in spurts—del Potro was tight and tentative in the first set, and Federer served just 50 percent and hit 13 aces against 11 double faults—but del Potro twice came back from a set down and played with complete conviction in the decisive set.

"It's always an amazing effort coming through and winning your first in your first final," Federer said. "Got to give him all the credit because it's not an easy thing to do, especially coming out against someone like me with so much experience. I think it's not easy to have a steel racquet. He had to live through some really tough moments earlier on in both breakers throughout those sets to come back. His effort was fantastic."

It was the second straight five-set match between Federer and del Potro, who drove the Swiss to the brink at Roland Garros before falling 3-6, 7-6 (2), 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 in the semifinals. That loss came five months after Federer flogged del Potro, 6-3, 6-0, 6-0, in the Australian Open quarterfinals. In Melbourne, del Potro essentially capitulated and was castigated by some for his poor effort in the final two sets. Toughened up by that humiliation, there was grit rather than quit when del Potro's moment of truth arrived in New York.

Moments after sweeping Nadal in the semifinals, del Potro told the crowd, "I will fight until the final point for you," and lived up to the vow, hitting 37 of his 57 winners from his forehand. A forehand pass crosscourt gave del Potro the break and a 2-0 lead in the decider.

"To be two sets to one down, but I think, 'Okay, you never lose until the last point, so keep fighting,'" del Potro said. "The crowd helped me and they saw my fight in every point."

Top 5 U.S. Open Upsets

No. 5: Muller d. Roddick, 2005
No. 4: Bychkova d. Kuznetsova, 2005
No. 3: Del Potro d. Federer, 2009
No. 2: Coming soon
No. 1: Coming soon

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