Wed, Sep 16, 2009 - Page 20 News List

Del Potro wins US Open, leaves Federer in a daze

AGENCIES , NEW YORK

Juan Martin del Potro from Argentina, front, celebrates after beating Roger Federer of Switzerland during the final of the US Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on Monday.

PHOTO: AFP

Roger Federer, owner of the most Grand Slam titles in history and maybe the best player of all time, finally lost at the US Open. But not to Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick or even Andy Murray.

Rather, it was sixth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro, the 1.98m Argentine with the big serve and the bigger forehand, who did the deed — a 3-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 upset victory on Monday in his first Grand Slam final.

“It’s difficult to explain this moment,” Del Potro said.

Inexplicable.

That’s another way to describe the loss of the top-ranked Federer, who was two points away from victory in the fourth set in a windy Arthur Ashe Stadium but couldn’t get his serve to click and had no answer for Del Potro’s forehand.

Thus ended a streak of 40 straight wins for Federer at Flushing Meadows and the quest to become the first person to win six straight titles at America’s Grand Slam since Bill Tilden in the 1920s.

“Five was great. Four was great, too,” Federer said. “Six would have been a dream, too. Can’t have them all.”

Federer beat everyone who got thrown at him in his five straight US Open final victories: Roddick, Murray, Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt, Novak Djokovic. Big hitters, finesse players, youngsters, veterans. Everyone. Until he met up with the lanky player from Argentina, nine days away from his 21st birthday.

“When I would have a dream, it was to win the US Open, and the other one is to be like Roger,” Del Potro said. “One is done.”

Del Potro had 37 forehand winners. And with the forehand working so well, he saw no need to ramp up his powerful serve.

Instead, he simply spun it in, got himself into a rally, then waited for his chance to strike.

Federer, meanwhile, couldn’t get his first serve on track. He got only 50 percent into play after averaging about 66 percent through his first six matches.

That gave him few easy points, and as the strain built up, it became more than just physical. A staunch critic of the review system used in tennis, he lashed out at the chair umpire during a changeover for allowing Del Potro to challenge a call well after the point was over.

“Come on, you are allowed two seconds to challenge, the guy takes 10,” Federer yelled at umpire Jake Garner as he walked to his chair. “Are there any rules? That was way too long.”

Told by Garner to be quiet, the usually unflappable Federer snapped: “Don’t tell me to be quiet, OK. When I want to talk, I talk. I don’t give a shit what you say.”

The exchange, which was picked up by the TV microphone, was not exactly the Serena Williams tirade in the women’s semi-finals that overtook this tournament during a wild weekend of tennis that spilled into Monday — one that also featured new mother Kim Clijsters returning to the sport to win the women’s title.

But it was uncharacteristic, much like Federer’s lackluster fifth set. He went down a break early, falling behind 3-0.

“I thought he served twice, held twice; I got broken; then he got the 3-0 lead. Pretty obvious,” Federer said, not bothering to expand on the reasons for his defeat.

His empty stare at the end was much different than the tear-filled reaction at the Australian Open to start the year, when he lost to Nadal in five sets and was left still seeking Grand Slam title No. 14 to tie Pete Sampras for the record.

Federer got that at the French Open, then broke the record at Wimbledon for the most career majors.

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