As Bravo analyst Paul Annacone said, “OH MY GOODNESS”. And that about sums up today’s Juan Martin Del Potro v Rafael Nadal match won by the Argentine 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(5). I don’t like to use the term epic, but that’s what this match with great points, great drama and great spirit as two warriors battled each other and their gimpy left wrists for over three hours.
Del Potro led early with a break but Nadal, with hours upon hours of court time, didn’t get down, didn’t give in and didn’t give up. He broke back and seized another break to take the opener.
The big Argentine began to find the range in second, bombing away with the forehand riding an early break to force a third. And then the fun really began.
Del Potro saved a break during a 10-minute game early on. The two continued to trade blows until Nadal played a real shaky ninth game serving 4-all giving Del Potro the break.
But serving for the match 5-4, improbably Del Potro couldn’t get a point. As Annacone rightly forecasted, this could be the toughest service game of Del Potro’s career. And it was. Nadal broke at love. Unbelievable!
With the South American crowd at a fever pitch, a 5-5 somehow Nadal got down 0-40 on his serve. But if that wasn’t enough, Del Potro simply couldn’t convert and get the break!
Nadal held, so did Del Potro and to the breaker we went. Wow.
Del Potro pulled ahead in the breaker 3-0 then hung on for the 7-5 win when a Nadal forehand sailed wide.
Big points, big forehands and big emotions. What a match.
“I am living like a dream,” said Del Potro. “It could be better than US Open tournament. My emotions are so high after every match. The crowds make me cry in every match and I would like to say thank you to them.”
For Nadal, no shame whatsoever in losing his first Olympic singles match. After all the tennis he’s played, I was surprised he put up that much of a fight. But full credit to Rafa, the wrist took about as big of a pounding as it could take and so far so good. The reviews are in and they are all positive. And, he has one more match to go!
“It was good match, good level of tennis and all I can say is congratulations to Del Potro,” said Nadal. “I try my best, I give my best ’til the last ball but that’s like this. I am very satisfied by what I did the whole week.
“Tomorrow is another day and I going to try to be ready for it.”
Earlier, Murray rolled Nishikori 6-1, 6-4 in just 79 minutes. He’s now 7-1 against the Japanese and he’s peaking at the right time.
“I played really well and I served well, by far the best this week.” said Murray. “That last service game I think was the only one that went to deuce on my serve, maybe two in the match, but I didn’t give him any opportunities on my serve and I was very aggressive when I was returning, so yeah, it was a good performance.”
Murray’s won 17 straight and 28 of his last 29, he’s try become the first player to defend a single gold. So life is good for the Scot, and real good going into the final…
Juan Martin Del Potro v Andy Murray (Gold Medal Match)
They big statistic in this match is the format and it’s best-of-5! So right there, it’s over for Del Potro. I just don’t see any way the big man can win three from Murray not after what he went through not only today but the whole week.
Remember, Del Potro isn’t used to playing this many matches in a week, and now after all that tennis and winning five straight in singles he’s faced with best-of-5 against the defending gold medalist and against someone he has trouble with?
Murray leads this series 5-2 and 4-1 on the hardcourts. But they’ve only played once this decade that won by Delpo at 2013 Indian Wells.
“Juan Martin has played great this event,” Murray said. “I think he obviously gained a lot of confidence from his win against Novak, and he won against Wawrinka at Wimbledon, so he’s starting to get back to a level he can play at after his wrist problems. It’s good for him.”
Still, freshness is the key and Murray has it by leaps and bounds. Del Potro will continue to crack the forehand (as he should) but Murray’s quickness, defense and return of serve prevails here. If Murray can just get enough balls back with the majority to the Delpo backhand, he’ll be fine. And if he extends the rallies early on, getting into Delpo’s oxygen supply thought would set the tone.
In best-of-3 I’d give Delpo a chance with the crowd and his forehand. But over five sets after the three hours today, I just cannot see it.
“It would mean a lot, it’s obviously not an easy thing to do, that’s why it’s not been done before,” Murray said of winning the gold again. “But I will go out there and give it my best effort. I’m happy that I’m guaranteed a medal after today but the goal is to win a gold medal so I will give it my best effort tomorrow to win another one.”
I think in his mind and body and from where he came from a year ago, Delpo’s content with the silver and happy to have done what he’s done this week – becoming the ninth player to beat both Nadal and Novak Djokovic in an event. Thankfully, win or lose tomorrow, it looks like he’ll have more chances ahead.
The Pick: Murray in 3
Rafael Nadal v Kei Nishikori (Bronze Medal Match)
Yup, Rafa’s not done yet. He’ll meet Nishikori for the bronze later Sunday so his Olympics aren’t done yet.
Nadal has won nine of 10 against Nishikori including earlier this year at Indian Wells.
“I hope I can recover well tonight and refresh my mind for tomorrow,” said Nishikori. “This is something new for me, after losing I have to play one more match for the medal so hopefully I can recover well, especially on the mental side, and I hope I can play good tennis tomorrow.”
And I know Rafa’s weary and worn out, but I think he’ll summon enough to get the bronze here. Why not!
The pick: Nadal in 3
Bravo will have live coverage of the gold medal matches at 11am ET with Murray-Delpo at 3:3pm ET. Let’s hope Delpo can get a good night of rest, he’ll need it.
SUNDAY RIO OLYMPICS SCHEDULE
Centre Court starting at 12:00
(7) MAKAROVA / VESNINA (RUS) vs (5) BACSINSZKY / HINGIS (SUI) ** GOLO MEDAL
not before 14:00
MATTEK-SANDS / SOCK (USA) vs (ITF) WILLIAMS / RAM (USA) ** GOLD MEDAL
not before 15:30
DEL POTRO Juan Martin (ARG) vs (2) MURRAY Andy (GBR) ** GOLD MEDAL
Court 1 starting at 12:00
HRADECKA / STEPANEK (CZE) vs (4) MIRZA / BOPANNA (IND) ** BRONZE MEDAL
not before 13:30
(3) NADAL Rafael (ESP) vs (4) NISHIKORI Kei (JPN) ** BRONZE MEDAL
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