Juan Martin del Potro played spoiler tonight, as he defeated Roger Federer in four sets to advance to the US Open semifinal.

In an encounter that featured two of the most beloved players on tour, Juan Martin del Potro played probably the best tennis of his 2017 season. He pulled off a near perfect display as he defeated world number 3 Roger Federer 7-5 3-6 7-6(8) 6-4 in 2 hours 50 minutes. By doing so, del Potro put an end to the prospect of having the very first Federer-Nadal match-up at the US Open.

Del Potro would have to remain focused if he wanted to upset the world number 3.

Federer and del Potro had met on 21 separate occasions, with Federer holding a commanding 16-5 lead. Perhaps the most significant was their 2009 US Open encounter, which took place in the final. In a match that welcomed del Potro to the upper echelons of the tennis circuit, the towering Argentine upset Federer and claimed his lone Grand Slam title in a five-set thriller.

Once considered a future world number 1 and a constant threat to the big four, del Potro’s illustrious career was derailed by a series of unfortunate injuries. He required numerous surgeries, which hindered his progress and put him on the shelf for months at a time. With his ranking constantly falling and teetering in the mid 100’s, he would have been forgiven if he decided to retire from tennis altogether.

Del Potro has dealt with various injuries throughout his entire career, and he has kept on fighting.

But that’s not what champions are made of. With intense physical therapy, a proper training regimen and insane willpower; the Argentine has slowly crept back up the rankings. Seeded 24th at the US Open, he upset Austrian Dominic Thiem in a scintillating five set encounter in the fourth round. Federer swept past German Philipp Kohlschreiber in straight sets, and both men were eager to lock horns in this rematch.

Federer had improved his level of play as the tournament progressed, and most expected him to overcome the Argentine.

It was a case of thunderous serves and booming forehands for the bulk of the first set. Neither man faced a break point until the eleventh game, where Federer uncharacteristically hit a double fault to give del Potro break point. A running forehand passing shot gave the Argentine the break, and he served out the first set 7-5 in 41 minutes.

Federer played more aggressively to begin the second set, attacking the net frequently and applying pressure to del Potro from both sides of the court. It paid off, as the Swiss superstar hit a forehand passing shot to break the Argentine and acquire a 3-1 lead.

After seizing the crucial break, Federer continued his aggressive play and went on to claim the second set 6-3 in 35 minutes.

One would think that the Swiss would take control of the third set, as momentum was surely on his side. He however displayed some erratic play, sending a few easy forehands into the net. He then committed his third double fault on break point, handing the Argentine a 2-0 lead.

Del Potro soon raced to a 4-2 lead but Federer used his impressive arsenal of shots to break back and level the match at 4-4. Serve after serve, forehand after forehand, neither man was willing to give as they traded blows like two professional fighters.

The third set inevitably went to a tiebreak, where Federer had four set points but was unable to capitalize on any of them. Del Potro, who is not known for his defense, exhibited some exceptional movement to keep the ball in play and took the tiebreak 7-6(8) in 59 minutes.

The atmosphere was electric at this point, as the crowd remained captivated by the proceedings on court. Federer is always the crowd favorite regardless of where he plays, except maybe in Madrid. The fans were in full support of both men tonight, and were certainly vocal about it. Each ace, winner and even error brought some form of response in what was shaping up to be a highly emotional encounter.

Federer had no answer for the del Potro serve, as the Argentine was extremely precise in his placement. He remained even with del Potro in the fourth set, until the fifth game. The world number 3 missed an easy over head following some great defense from del Potro, to give the Argentine break point. A spectacular backhand return winner then gave del Potro the crucial break.

If the Argentine was nervous, he certainly did not show it. Displaying a poise that rivaled Federer’s in his prime, del Potro went on to serve for the match at 5-4. He completed the upset with a forehand winner, finishing the match in just under 3 hours.

Del Potro put on a Herculean display, employing not only his fearsome forehand but also his underrated backhand. He showed great touch at the net and remained stoic throughout the encounter. It was in fact Federer who looked shaky at times, making a lot of questionable errors.

“It should hurt, it does. But with the season I’ve had, I have perspective on these losses. I’ll be fine.” – Federer said in his post-match interview.

Having put an end to the highly anticipated match-up of a Federer-Nadal meeting at the US Open, del Potro now has a day to relax and reflect. He will next face the world number 1 in the semi-final on Friday, after Nadal breezed past Andrey Rublev earlier today in his quarterfinal match.

Nadal leads del Potro 8-5 in career meetings, but del Potro was victorious in their most recent encounter at the Rio Olympics. Del Potro also defeated Nadal 6-2 6-2 6-2 in the semifinals at the US Open in 2009. Nadal is in terrific form, but it wouldn’t be far-fetched to see another upset in the making; based on how the Argentine played tonight.

Do you believe del Potro can take down the world number 1? And will Federer ever meet Nadal at the US Open? Leave your thoughts and comments below, and click here for a point-by-point recap of this thrilling quarterfinal encounter.

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