In what has to be the match of the tournament thus far, Juan Martin Del Potro showed the world why he is so beloved in the game of tennis. With heart beyond words, Del Potro fought through illness to come back from 2 sets down and beat young Dominic Thiem.
Through the first two sets of tennis, Juan Martin Del Potro looked haggard, sickly, and tense, not hitting a winner until down 1-4 in the second set. When the trainer and doctor visited during the 2nd set, most assumed that Del Potro would be retiring having lost the first two sets 1-6, 1-6, to an in tune and precise Dominic Thiem. It looked as if Del Potro was merely there to save the fans (who waited all day to see the popular Argentinian) from the rash of retirements that have been so noted in this year’s slams. Then with a bevy of forehand winners at the start of the 3rd set, it appeared that a sickly Del Potro found life from above. Showing the aggression and footwork necessary to win a slam, del Potro ran through the third set 6-1, as a perplexed Thiem didn’t seem to know how to handle either the pressure or game of the crowd favorite.
The 4th set began just as efficiently as the 3rd ended: Del Potro broke right away to go up the break, but then was broken twice in a row to go down 2-4. The number 6th seeded Thiem displayed a new level of physicality and athleticism. As Thiem’s energy rose; del Potro seemed to start succumbing to the viral illness that plagued him the first two sets of the match. Del Potro fought of a determined Thiem to hold for 3-5 in the 4th set, behind two huge aces— as if summoned like prayers from the depths of his soul. The crowd roared at the chance at yet another momentum shift from the hugely backed Del Potro. Thiem was undaunted though, starting the 9th game with a forehand winner, then forced a Del Potro error to go up 30-0 before Del Potro answered with his own crowd stirring winner from deep in the court, followed by a forced error from Thiem and suddenly the match was at 30 all. Thiem blinked: a double fault giving Del Potro a break point to get back on serve. Thiem seemed rattled as he hit a forehand long, and suddenly the 4th set was back on serve with a crowd going wild.
Both players held serve easily the next two games which brought del Potro to the line on serve but down 5-6. Del Potro ripped a winner to go up 15-0, but then was jammed by two good Thiem returns and Thiem winner to go down 15-30. Followed by Del Potro double fault, Thiem had two match points. Following the dramatic play of the match, Del Potro fired two aces to erase the match points. He then forced Thiem into a forehand error and extended the game to a 4th set tie break. Del Potro got the early mini-break then never looked back winning the 4th set tie break 7-1 on a blistering crosscourt forehand.
The 5th set started off routinely with both players displaying power and consistency and both holding easily to get to 2-2. The crowd erupted with every powerful forehand from Del Potro and every cracking backhand from Thiem. With Thiem serving 2-3, he quickly found himself down 0-30, and 15-40, but just as it had been all match when either player’s back was against a wall, Thiem found his best shotmaking. Thiem fought off the break points with punishing inside out forehands, and leveled the set at 3 all behind a vicious down the line backhand. The match stayed on serve to 4-5 with Thiem serving to stay in the match. At 15 all, Del Potro unleashed a wicked cross court backahand that went behind Thiem putting him down in the game. But Thiem clawed his way back. After a 20 shot rally with both players scurrying across the court, Thiem ripped the backhand volley of Del Potro down the line to even the game at 30-30. But del Potro wouldn’t concede the game, catching Thiem in the deuce court with a deep forehand jamming the Austrian and setting up match point Del Potro. Thiem clung to the point though, retrieving wide forehand angles to bring deuce at 4-5 in the 5th. Thiem then drew the return error from Del Potro to give him game point for 5 all, but Del Potro answered with a down the line forehand clean winner to bring about deuce. Thiem shanked a forehand wide to give del Potro his second match point. del Potro bent over deeply before Thiem’s serve, and watch Thiem serve a second serve ace, which incredibly Del Potro challenged and was out, resulting in a double fault and the match for Del Potro.
In magic only fitting of New York, the US Open, and the epic comeback story of Juan Martin Del Potro, Del Potro proved his mettle again and again.