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Nine Years Later, Del Potro Makes US Open Final Return

  • Posted: Sep 08, 2018

Nine Years Later, Del Potro Makes US Open Final Return

Del Potro has dropped just one set en route to the US Open final

At the age of 20, Juan Martin del Potro stunned the tennis world by winning back-to-back matches against Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer to lift the 2009 US Open title. The 6’6″ Argentine blasted his way into the history books, becoming just the second man, after Nadal, to defeat Federer in a Grand Slam championship match and joined Novak Djokovic as one of two men to break Federer and Nadal’s hold over Grand Slam events since Roland Garros in 2005.

Now, nine years on, Del Potro stands one win away from recapturing the trophy at his favourite tournament. The 2009 winner has won 81 of 88 service games en route to the final, where he will meet Novak Djokovic, bidding to win his second straight Grand Slam trophy after triumphing at Wimbledon in July.

“I cannot believe that I will have a chance to play another Grand Slam final here, which is my favourite tournament,” said Del Potro. “So it will be special to me. It will be a big challenge, as well, because I’ve been fighting with many, many problems to get to this moment.

“I’m here now. It will be a difficult match… In the finals, anything can happen. If I win, great. If not, I have been playing a great tournament and I will be happy anyway.”

But to understand the significance of Del Potro’s return to the US Open final, you have to understand the journey between the two Grand Slam final appearances. Del Potro is bidding to win his second Grand Slam title in his 22nd major tournament since capturing his maiden crown. Should the 29-year-old defeat Djokovic, he would set an Open Era record for most events played in between a first and second Grand Slam title.

Longest Gap Between First And Second Grand Slam Titles

Player First Grand Slam Title Second Grand Slam Title Attempts Before Winning Second Grand Slam Title
Marat Safin 2000 US Open 2005 Australian Open 14
Novak Djokovic 2008 Australian Open 2011 Australian Open 12
Gustavo Kuerten 1997 Roland Garros 2000 Roland Garros 12
Pete Sampras 1990 US Open 1993 Wimbledon 9

The journey from 2009 and 2018 has been dramatic, with four wrist surgeries and a drop to No. 1045 in the ATP Rankings all a part of the struggle a determined Del Potro has endured en route back to the US Open championship match. After clinching his maiden Grand Slam title in 2009, the Tower of Tandil soon reached the final of the Nitto ATP Finals, once again defeating Federer, before falling to Nikolay Davydenko.

But just as Del Potro appeared to be ready to take his game to the new heights in 2010, a right wrist injury wreaked havoc with his plans. The Argentine missed eight months of the season after a Round of 16 exit at the Australian Open, losing the opportunity to defend his title in New York before back-to-back losses on his return to action called an end to his season.

Three encouraging seasons followed for Del Potro between 2011 and 2013, with 10 tour-level trophies captured. But the 2009 champion failed to move past the quarter-finals stage in Flushing Meadows, with a last-eight loss to Djokovic in 2012 his best result.

Three further wrist surgeries were needed between 2014 and 2015 as Del Potro plummeted down the ATP Rankings, with doubt cast over whether the Argentine had a future in the sport. But Del Potro, as No. 1042, made his latest return to action at the 2016 Delray Beach Open.

“The worst moment was in 2015 when I was close to quitting this sport because I couldn’t find a way to fix my wrist problems,” said Del Potro. “I had been suffering a lot. I got depressed for a couple of months also. I didn’t get the chance to feel better with myself, to do this again. That was the bad moment for me.

“But I think that is completely in the past, and now I’m having a good present, looking forward for the future. I didn’t expect to get these kind of emotions playing tennis again. Reaching finals, winning titles, having my highest ranking ever in this moment, everything is almost perfect.”

In 2016 and 2017, Del Potro re-established himself as one of the best players on the ATP World Tour, climbing back up the ladder with title runs in Stockholm and consistency throughout the year. In New York, quarter-final and semi-final showings proved the Argentine was back in title contention at the biggest events.

But 2018 has seen Del Potro return to peak form, breaking back into the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings in January before lifting his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title at the BNP Paribas Open in March. Deep runs at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and Los Cabos saw Del Potro reach a career-high No. 3 on 13 August, before he once again returned to New York. But this time, Del Potro arrived as a serious title contender.

After six victories, with just one set dropped, Del Potro has lived up to his billing at the US Open. The 2009 champion returns to a Grand Slam final for the first time since his surprise win over Federer nine years ago and could end a streak of eight consecutive Grand Slam titles won by players aged 30 or over. Andy Murray’s 2016 Wimbledon triumph, as a 29-year-old, marked the last title run by a player under 30 at a Grand Slam.

Can Del Potro, nine years on, recreate the heroics of that famous night against Roger Federer on Arthur Ashe Stadium? Del Potro may be referring to himself as the underdog on Sunday, but he knows, better than anyone, how to defy the odds.

“Novak has won Wimbledon already. He’s playing so good. He will be the favourite to win on Sunday,” said Del Potro. “But I don’t know. When I played Roger nine years ago, he was the favourite to win, as well. I will try to make the surprise again.”

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Murray/Mattek-Sands Capture US Open Mixed Doubles Title

  • Posted: Sep 08, 2018

Murray/Mattek-Sands Capture US Open Mixed Doubles Title

Murray wins second straight US Open mixed doubles trophy

In the first all-unseeded mixed doubles final at the US Open since 2009, Jamie Murray lifted the US Open title on Saturday. The Brit, competing alongside home favourite Bethanie Mattek-Sands for the first time, defeated Nikola Mektic and Alicja Rosolska 2-6, 6-3, 11-9 to triumph in Flushing Meadows for the second straight year.

Murray, who lifted the trophy with Martina Hingis last year, and Mattek-Sands trailed 1/4 in the Match Tie-break before converting their fourth championship point to lift the trophy. Murray becomes the first man to win back-to-back mixed doubles titles in New York since Bob Bryan (2003-04). It is Murray’s fourth mixed doubles Grand Slam title and sixth overall, with two men’s doubles successes alongside Bruno Soares at the 2016 Australian Open and US Open.

Mattek-Sands, a five-time women’s doubles Grand Slam champion and three-time mixed doubles major winner, lifts her eighth Grand Slam crown. The 33-year-old Pheonix resident clinches her first US Open mixed doubles title in her second final after finishing as a runner-up in 2015 with fellow American Sam Querrey. Murray and Mattek-Sands receive $155,000, while Mektic and Rosolska will split $70,000.

Mutua Madrid Open champion Mektic was bidding to win his first Grand Slam mixed doubles trophy. Mektic’s first-time partner Rosolska was aiming to become the first Polish player to win a mixed doubles Grand Slam event.

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Del Potro Strikes Back In GQ Feature

  • Posted: Sep 08, 2018

Del Potro Strikes Back In GQ Feature

World No. 3 discusses injuries, Federer and crowd support with GQ

Juan Martin del Potro, who will face two-time champion Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s US Open final, recently spoke with Chloe Cooper Jones for a feature with GQ Magazine.

The 6’6″ Argentine, who beat Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer en route to his maiden Grand Slam title nine years ago, shared his memories of his run in 2009, the injuries that followed and his unique bond with tennis fans:

The stands are packed with fans dressed in blue and white, waving the Argentinian flag. Del Potro waves to the crowd, which morphs into a wall of cell phones, ready to record his every move on court. He’s only a few minutes into his warm-up before the fans start singing the familiar refrain heard at all his matches. “Ole, ole ole ole, Delpo, Delpo!”

At an earlier practice, a young girl started weeping at the mere sight of him. She held her arms out to him until he came over to comfort her. It’s not pity for his injuries that inspires so much devotion from his fans; it’s how he’s recovered from them.

“I take the really sad moments with me to the court,” del Potro says. “I’m able to transform all that energy, and from it create strength, faith, and a will to honor everything I’ve gone through. I use the memory of those painful moments as a weapon to keep fighting.”

Soon he’ll leave Miami and return to his hometown of Tandil for a well-earned rest. Tandil was founded around a mysterious boulder that teetered precariously on the edge of a mountain, defying gravity. The rock eventually fell, splitting into two at the bottom of a canyon. A replica of the rock was built and put back in the same spot, this time engineered not to fall again from the mountain. The rock is cemented there, no longer by luck but by science and technology.

In Argentina, del Potro is often referred to as the Tower of Tandil. He has fallen, been put back together, reconstructed, and now stands stronger than ever. He’s not an underdog anymore. He’s not fragile. A kid in the stands holds up a sign that says “Delpo the Gentle Giant,” and I think, Sure, kid. This is the kind giant who grinds opponents’ bones for his bread.

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Williams targets record-equalling title as Osaka faces her idol

  • Posted: Sep 08, 2018
2018 US Open women’s final
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: Saturday, 8 September Time: 21:00 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and text updates on the BBC Sport website.

Serena Williams is aiming to win a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title when she faces Naomi Osaka in the US Open final on Saturday, just one year after giving birth.

The American, 36, hopes to equal Australian Margaret Court’s record.

Williams lost to Angelique Kerber in the Wimbledon final in July and could win her first Grand Slam title since having daughter Olympia.

Osaka, 20, is the first Japanese woman to reach a Grand Slam final.

The final begins at 21:00 BST on Arthur Ashe Stadium with the mixed doubles final, featuring Britain’s Jamie Murray, starting at 17:00.

Twentieth seed Osaka, who calls Williams her role model, beat her in their only previous match.

But that was in the Miami Open in March this year – Williams’ second tournament back since her return.

“I was breast-feeding at the time, so it was a totally different situation,” said Williams. “Hopefully I won’t play like that again. I can only go up from that match.”

Williams’ husband Alexis Ohanian celebrated her return to the US Open final with a touching Twitter tribute – a video of her in action and the first days of their daughter.

The 36-year-old suffered life threatening complications after the birth on September 1 last year, requiring four surgeries to deal with blood clots.

“She fought for her life, for our child, for recognition, for equal pay, for women’s rights. She never gives up,” Ohanian tweeted.

Williams said: “A year ago I was fighting for my life in the hospital after I had the baby. Every time I step out on this court I’m so grateful that I have the opportunity to play this sport.”

  • ‘I dreamed of facing Serena in Grand Slam final’
  • Injured Nadal will ‘keep fighting on’

Age is not a factor – the best of the stats

  • Williams has gone beyond Steffi Graf’s haul of 22 Grand Slam titles, and now has won the most by any player in the Open era (since 1968). Only Margaret Court, on 24, is ahead in the all-time list.
  • 2002 was the year Williams’ first became world number one.
  • The American has reached 31 Grand Slam singles finals.
  • Williams was 17 when she won her first Grand Slam title at the 1999 US Open, defeating world number one Martina Hingis.
  • Williams has won a record number of 331 Grand Slam singles matches
  • She is the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam in the Open era, and the oldest world number one.
  • Williams has also won 23 doubles titles, including 14 Grand Slams and three Olympic golds.

Open era’s oldest Grand Slam women’s finalists

Player Age Grand Slam Result
*based on age at end of tournament
Martina Navratilova 37 years, 258 days 1994 Wimbledon Runner-up
Venus Williams 37 years, 29 days 2017 Wimbledon Runner-up
Serena Williams 36 years, 349 days* 2018 US Open TBD
Serena Williams 36 years, 293 days 2018 Wimbledon Runner-up
Venus Williams 36 years, 226 days 2017 Australian Open Runner-up
Serena Williams 35 years, 125 days 2017 Australian Open Winner

Osaka meets idol on biggest stage

Osaka is aiming to make history in the final by becoming Japan’s first Grand Slam champion.

Like Williams she has dropped just one set during the tournament and has spent less time on court than the 23-time major winner in the six rounds so far.

Osaka was just one year old when Williams won her first US Open title in 1999 and says she “always dreamed” of playing the American in a Slam final.

The 20-year-old had not reached a Grand Slam quarter-final before this tournament whereas Williams is competing in her 31st Slam final and second since her returning to action.

“When you just come back and then you make the finals of two slams, I think that’s really amazing,” Osaka said of Williams.

“But I really feel like I don’t want to overthink this match, so I’m not going to think that she’s so much better than she was in Miami.”

Osaka has been coached by Williams’ former coach Sascha Bajin since December 2017 and he has overseen her rise from 68 in the world at the start of the season to her current position of 19.

“She was a big hitter before I started with her. She knew how to play tennis,” he said. “She maybe didn’t know quite how to handle it or control it, didn’t quite know when to pull the trigger, when not to.

“Maybe she didn’t know that there were other ways of putting pressure on the opponent. Now she’s more open-minded on the court about other things than just trying to crush the opponent.”

How they reached the final

Serena Williams

R1: bt Magda Linette (POL) 6-4, 6-0

R2: bt Carina Witthoeft (GER) 6-2, 6-2

R3: bt Venus Williams (USA x16) 6-1, 6-2

R4: bt Kaia Kanepi (EST) 6-0, 4-6, 6-3

QF: bt Karolina Pliskova (CZE x8) 6-4, 6-3

SF: bt Anastasija Sevastova (LAT x19) 6-3, 6-0

Naomi Osaka

R1: bt Laura Siegemund (GER) 6-3, 6-2

R2: bt Julia Glushko (ISR) 6-2, 6-0

R3: bt Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) 6-0, 6-0

R4: bt Aryna Sabalenka (BLR x26) 6-3, 2-6, 6-4

QF: bt Lesia Tsurenko (UKR) 6-1, 6-1

SF: bt Madison Keys (USA x14) 6-2, 6-4

Britain’s Murray aiming for sixth title

Defending British champion Jamie Murray will compete in his third US Open mixed doubles final but his first with American partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Murray, 32, won in New York last year with Martina Hingis and is aiming to win his sixth Grand Slam title.

The pair will play Poland’s Alicja Rosolska and Croatia’s Nikola Mektic in Saturday’s final on Arthur Ashe.

Mattek-Sands is aiming to win her eighth Grand Slam title and her first since suffering a horrific knee injury at Wimbledon last year.

She was forced to miss eight months before returning to reach the second round of the French Open this year.

“The chance to get into a Grand Slam final again was a big motivation for me,” said Murray.

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Bryan wins record 18th Grand Slam men's doubles title

  • Posted: Sep 08, 2018
2018 US Open
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: 27 August-9 September Coverage: Live radio coverage on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra; live text commentaries on the BBC Sport website

American Mike Bryan won a record 18th Grand Slam men’s doubles title alongside compatriot Jack Sock when the pair beat Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo 6-3 6-1 in the US Open final.

The third seeds also won Wimbledon together earlier this year, the first Grand Slam title Bryan won without his twin brother Bob.

Bryan, 40, has now surpassed Australian John Newcombe’s doubles record.

“This is not just about me. It’s a team effort,” said Bryan

“It takes a lot of people behind the scenes to get this 40-year-old body on the court and winning a couple of matches.”

Bryan and Sock won all their service games in the tournament and became the first duo to win consecutive Grand Slam titles since Mike and Bob achieved four in a row in 2012.

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Novak Djokovic beats Kei Nishikori to reach US Open final

  • Posted: Sep 08, 2018
2018 US Open men’s final
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Date: Sunday, 9 September Time: 21:00 BST
Coverage: Live radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and text updates on the BBC Sport website.

Novak Djokovic moved closer to equalling Pete Sampras’s tally of 14 Grand Slams after outclassing Kei Nishikori to reach the US Open final.

Serbia’s Djokovic beat the Japanese 21st seed 6-3 6-4 6-2 to set up a meeting with Juan Martin del Potro.

Djokovic and Argentine Del Potro, who advanced when Rafael Nadal retired injured from their semi-final, meet in the final on Sunday at 21:00 BST.

“It means the world to me. I am trying to be the best that I can be,” he said.

“I am working hard every day and trying to reach certain heights that I visualise every time I accomplish something big.

“I don’t see any limits. I keep on going and hopefully you are enjoying my tennis.”

  • ‘I will keep fighting,’ says injured Nadal
  • • Williams targets record-equalling title as Osaka faces her idol

The 31-year-old moved to within one Grand Slam triumph of American great Sampras by winning Wimbledon in July, his first major triumph since the 2016 French Open.

Djokovic suffered with personal and injury problems during 2017 and the early part of this year, but looked back to his best at Wimbledon and has continued that form at Flushing Meadows.

If he beats Del Potro to equal Sampras, only Roger Federer (20) and Nadal (17) stand above him in the all-time list.

Rejuvenated Djokovic marches on

Although Djokovic has struggled with the heat and humidity at times, there were no such problems as he looked energetic in cooler conditions during Friday’s night-time semi-final.

The 2011 and 2015 champion suffocated Nishikori with his deep returning, controlling the points and rarely allowing his opponent to drag him into long rallies.

Djokovic’s level rarely dropped throughout a two-and-a-half hour victory, the only slight concern being his inability to convert the plethora of break points which came his way.

The sixth seed only took one of five in the first set and missed another four in the first game of the second set.

But his patience was eventually rewarded at a fourth opportunity in the fifth game, and he then broke twice more in a much simpler third set.

“I thought I came in today from the first point with a great intensity, great focus,” said Djokovic.

“You have to execute the shots against Kei Nishikori, who is one of the quickest movers.”

  • Relive semi-finals as they happened

Japan’s hopes of a double success over

Nishikori, 28, was aiming to become the second Japanese player to reach a US Open final at this year’s tournament, following 20-year-old Naomi Osaka’s semi-final triumph over American Madison Keys on Thursday.

While Osaka will face her idol Serena Williams in her first major final on Saturday, Nishikori will have to wait for another chance to play in his second.

The 2014 US Open runner-up could not be faulted for his endeavour, but was powerless to stop his thumping groundstrokes continually being put back into play by Djokovic.

More success came Nishikori’s way when he was able to move into the net, particularly in the second set when he conjured up two break points.

However, he was unable to take either and wilted as Djokovic went on to take his second match point with a stunning retrieving backhand down the line.

  • Hewett & Reid reach wheelchair doubles final
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Djokovic, Federer Clinch 2018 Nitto ATP Finals Spots

  • Posted: Sep 08, 2018

Djokovic, Federer Clinch 2018 Nitto ATP Finals Spots

Serbian and Swiss stars to return to London

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, two of the most successful players in the history of the season finale, have joined World No. 1 Rafael Nadal as qualifiers for the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 in London from 11-18 November.

Buy Your Tickets

Five-time former champion Djokovic clinched his place in the elite field for the 11th time by reaching the US Open final on Friday with victory over Kei Nishikori of Japan, which meant that six-time titlist Federer automatically sealed his spot for a record 16th season as a result of the Grand Slam champion rule*.

The 31-year-old Djokovic made 10 straight appearances at the prestigious season-ending tournament from 2007-2016, compiling a 31-11 record with titles in 2008, 2012-15. He also reached the 2016 final, finishing runner-up to Andy Murray in a match that decided who finished year-end No. 1 in the ATP Rankings.

Djokovic has returned to his peak-performance days in 2018 with his fourth Wimbledon trophy (d. Anderson) in July and a historic first Western & Southern Open title in Cincinnati (d. Federer), which saw him become the first singles player to capture all nine ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns in the history of the series (since 1990). Having won 21 of his past 22 matches, the Serbian will play Juan Martin del Potro, who is currently in third in the ATP Race To London, in his seventh US Open final on Sunday.

Federer will make a 16th visit to the season finale, having competed in 2002-15 and 2017, with a 55-13 match record, including titles in 2003-04, 2006-07, 2010-11. He also reached the final on four other occasions, finishing runner-up to David Nalbandian in 2005 and to Djokovic in 2012, ’2014-15.

More than 14 years after he first became No. 1, Federer returned for a six-week stint to the top of the ATP Rankings on 19 February 2018, breaking a number of records — the longest period between stints at No. 1, the oldest player to attain top spot and for the longest duration between first and last days at the summit of men’s professional tennis. He also held the top spot on two other occasions, in the week beginning 14 May (one week) and from 18 June (one week), for 310 weeks overall.

The 37-year-old Swiss retained the Australian Open crown (d. Cilic) in January, marking his 20th Grand Slam championship trophy, and the following month he captured the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament title in Rotterdam (d. Dimitrov), after which he returned to No. 1 for the first time since 4 November 2012. Federer picked up the 98th trophy of his career at the MercedesCup in Stuttgart (d. Raonic), and also finished runner-up at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells (l. to Del Potro), which broke a 17-match winning streak, the Gerry Weber Open in Halle (l. to Coric) and in Cincinnati.

Del Potro is the next in line to qualify for the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals, which would mark his first appearance at The O2 in London since 2013. Alexander Zverev of Germany, Croatia’s Marin Cilic, Kevin Anderson of South Africa and Austria’s Dominic Thiem hold down the fifth through eighth spots in the ATP Race To London.

The Nitto ATP Finals welcomes more than 250,000 fans to The O2 arena annually, as well as generating global viewership figures reaching an average of 95 million viewers each year, as the ATP’s best eight singles players and doubles teams compete over eight days at the biggest indoor tennis tournament in the world.

* The Grand Slam champion rule is for a current-year major championship winner, who is guaranteed to finish between Nos. 8-20 in the ATP Race To London.

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