Nadal* 6-4, 2-0 Del Potro (*next server) – Nadal breaks
Oh dear. Del Potro nets a very makeable forehand to fall down 0-40 and present Nadal with three break points. Another netted forehand sees the Argentine broken to love.
Nadal is a set and a break to the good.
Nadal 6-4, 1-0 Del Potro* (*next server)
Del Potro is still going for the jugular, burying a forehand winner past Nadal to get to deuce. Nadal though is like Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea team from the mid-2000s. Whatever his opponents throw at him, he somehow finds a way to win. Suffice it to say he holds here.
Nadal* 6-4 Del Potro (*next server) – First set Nadal
That’s why he’s the master of this surface. Del Potro looks in control of the point when he thwacks away a forehand from close to the service box, but Nadal stretches and somehow flicks away a backhand passing shot winner. An off-forehand winner then earns Nadal two set points at 15-40, his first break points of the match. Del Potro saves the first one but excellent Nadal defence draws an error on the second and that’s the first set. Del Potro cannot believe it.
An ambush set from Nadal. Del Potro was on top pretty much throughout, but it’s the 10-time champion who claims it.
Nadal 5-4 Del Potro* (*next server)
Big fist bump from Nadal after gliding his way to a punched forehand volley for 0-15. But a brilliant exchange then ends with Del Potro stretching for a volley to go up 15-30. And a perfectly guided backhand winner up the line opens up two break points for the Argentine. Can he take one of these two? No he can’t. Nadal saves the first with a canny drop shot, before Del Potro wildly overcooks a forehand on the second. A third break point of the game then presents itself after a missed Nadal backhand, but a bad bounce completely flummoxes Delpo on this one. Nadal eventually holds with a stunning reflex volley.
Del Potro has wasted six break points. Will he be made to pay? He’ll now serve to stay in the set.
Nadal* 4-4 Del Potro (*next server)
Breezy love hold for Del Potro, helped by a couple of aces – one clocked at 131 mph. That injury concern seems to have been a false alarm. Delpo is no stranger to a bit of ham acting.
Nadal 4-3 Del Potro* (*next server)
Oof, that Del Potro forehand when he connects with it. Nadal is almost knocked to the ground by one bullet this game. Rafa though is not too shabby himself, and ends up holding to 15 with a flicked forehand winner into the open court. We remain on serve.
Nadal* 3-3 Del Potro (*next server)
The trainer doesn’t hand around for too long, with Del Potro seemingly feeling a bit better. He certainly looks fine, thundering away forehands on average 12mph quicker than Nadal’s at 86mph. A Nadal forehand return flies long to secure a Delpo hold to 30.
Nadal 3-2 Del Potro* (*next server)
For the third straight returning game, Del Potro gets to 0-30. But again Nadal rallies – playing consecutive drop shots for 30-30 and holding to 30 after a couple of Delpo misses.
The trainer is out for Del Potro.
Meanwhile one of tomorrow’s finalists is in the crowd…
Nadal* 2-2 Del Potro (*next server)
Del Potro has called for the trainer at the next change of ends. Given the injury hell he has endured, it would be so cruel if Del Potro was struck down again today. He doesn’t look completely pain-free this game but a booming ace down the T helps Del Potro to a hold to 30.
Nadal 2-1 Del Potro* (*next server) - Nadal saves three break points and holds
The crowd want to see a match, and they’re delighting in the ferocity of these Del Potro forehands. Another rocket unsettles Nadal, and a missed forehand and a double fault then present Del Potro with three break points at 0-40. He can’t take any of them though – missing a backhand and a forehand after being snared like a Nadal forehand winner. Delpo is then grimacing in agony after being wrongfooted by a Nadal forehand. Fingers crossed he hasn’t just aggravated the groin injury that he was carrying before the tournament. Del Potro limps to the chair after a missed backhand secures the hold for Nadal.
Nadal* 1-1 Del Potro (*next server)
A first forehand bomb from DP gets him to 15-0, before a finessed backhand lob makes it 30-0. An absolute howitzer of a Delpo forehand then flies down the line in a blur for 40-0. An ace seals a love hold.
Nadal 1-0 Del Potro* (*next server)
Two Nadal backhand errors have us at 0-30. Del Potro though throws in a few loose points of his own to fall down 40-30. Rafa seals the hold to 30 with a forehand drop shot winner.
It’s nice and warm. Just as Nadal likes it. Nadal will serve first to get us under way.
The players are out
Big noise for both players, with Delpo a huge favourite wherever he goes.
The time spent on court so far if you’re interested:
Nadal: 13h 30min
Del Potro: 12h 27min
Thiem has beaten Cecchinato in straight sets, so Nadal and Del Potro will be on shortly.
Well what a match we have in store. Two heavyweights of the game going head to…wait a minute, haven’t we heard that many times before this tournament and then been left hopelessly disappointed?
It has felt a few times over the last week like we’ve massively built matches up only to be then left disappointed. Hopefully today will be an exception, and the enduringly popular Juan Martin del Potro will at least give the 10-time champion Rafael Nadal a fright.
Del Potro certainly has a game big enough to trouble anyone when he’s on song – even Nadal – so it’s really a question of how much he has left in the tank after playing close to four hours across two days against Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals.
There’s also the emotional toll to consider – after beating Cilic, Del Potro broke down in tears on court and said: ”It’s tough to speak now. It has been a long time without a good feeling in my body. I have had three surgeries on my left wrist and I was close to quitting. I don’t have any words.
“It’s so good for my team and my family. I am so proud to be playing tennis. I feel at home here. Merci beaucoup!”
Nadal of course had a similarly drawn-out quarter against the inspired Diego Schwartzman on Wednesday and Thursday, but you suspect the scare he was given there might sharpen his mind against Del Potro today.
With that in mind, I suspect Nadal will come through in straight sets. I really hope I’m wrong though and we have an exciting contest. Certainly there’s enough to suggest in their previous meetings that we could be in for a fun match; Nadal leads the head to head 9-5, and lost the first set to Del Potro at the US Open in September before rallying to win in four.
The players will be on not before 2.30pm, and it could be later than that depending on how long the first semi-final between Dominic Thiem vs Marco Cecchinato takes. You can follow that one with me here.
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