In dramatic style, Juan Martin Del Potro and Roger Federer booked spots in the semifinals over local favorite Andy Murray at the season-ending ATP World Finals. Del Potro successfully duplicated his US Open win defeating world No. 1 Roger Federer 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3 in the final round robin matches of an ultra-competitive “A” Group.
“I played good tennis today, similar than New York, a little better in some moments of the match,” Del Potro said. “I served good in important moments. I took my opportunities. That’s what I have to do against the best player in the world: take the opportunities and try to play the best tennis.”
In the match within the match, to advance to the semifinals Del Potro needed to beat Federer and beat him with enough margin to pass Murray (and Federer) in games won percentage. Murray did himself no favors winning earlier in three tight sets over Fernando Verdasco in a final set tiebreak thriller.
That result left the door open for Del Potro and the Argentine seized the opportunity taking it to Federer in the first set. But Federer was resilient in the second grabbing the set in the tiebreaker to avoid elimination from the event – Federer would have been sent home by a straight set loss.
With a set in the bag Federer was all but assured of a semifinal berth based on his games won/lost percentage to that point, but Del Potro was still left scrambling and in need of a win by enough games.
In the end with the top three tied in win/loss (2-1) and sets (5-4) it came down to games won. And Del Potro (45-43) advanced by just one game over Murray (44-43), so had Federer just won one more game in the third set Murray would have advanced over Del Potro. (Or had Murray won one more game during the round-robin stage.)
On twitter shortly after the Fed match, a confused Murray tweeted: “Anyone know what’s going on?? I think I’m audi but the rules aren’t worded too well”.
During a changeover late in his win over Verdasco, Murray actually asked a tournament official for clarity of the round-robin tiebreaker rules. But Murray will be watching this weekend as Del Potro and Federer advanced.
“I thought he played a really good match,” said Federer who had two breaks points against Del Potro at 3-3 in the third. “I thought he was able to lift his game after the first two matches, where I just thought he looked a bit weary. So for me it’s a tough loss. But, sure, I’m happy I’m through. That it got so close with the other two guys, it’s quite incredible. I am, in a way, surprised myself it came down to a couple games. I’m excited to be through. But I wished I could have won today. That would have given me extra confidence. Now it’s the way it is. But I got a day to rest, which is probably a little advantage.”
Lost in the mix is Fernando Verdasco who fell in his third straight three setter in his ATP Tennis Finals debut. His lefty countryman Rafael Nadal will try to get Spain on the board against Novak Djokovic. Should Nadal, who along with Verdasco has Davis Cup next weekend, opt out of the match Jo-Wilfried Tsonga would serve as a replacement.
In the second match Nikolay Davydenko meets Robin Soderling. If Davydenko wins over Soderling the Russian will advance to the semifinals as the Group B winner with the Swede No. 2. Therefore, Djokovic must win and hope Davydenko loses for the Serb to stay in the tournament and enter the semifinals as the No. 2 seed from Group B.
As it stands now Federer will play the No. 2 player from Group B while Del Potro will play the winner.
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Juan Martin del Potro: I Think I’m Playing Better Now Than When I Won The US Open
Tsonga Beats Nadal, Secures ATP Finals SF; Can Djokovic Join Him?
Murray Outguns and Eliminates Federer from Masters Cup