It’s the new drinking game. JMDP may as well change his name to permanently include the words. Anyway, excerpts from various takes on the final (I’m not used to JMDP getting so much press that I don’t have to ask someone to translate for me!):
At the beginning, he resembled a plodding, hunch-shouldered, heavy-footed gentle giant, as long as a black Crayola crayon, consistently flummoxed by an opponent who strikes like a cobra from anywhere on the court and moves as if he were dancing with a ball named Ginger Rogers.
It couldn’t have been easy for the big man with the suitably big name, Juan Martin del Potro, in those first 15 or so games. He’d tossed and turned through a sleepless night like a man who would be executed at dawn, and forced down breakfast over the objections of his jumpy stomach. He’s one of those big men who seems loath to draw attention to himself; he mumbles in a monotone, when he sits down he appears to try to make himself small. Upon first exposure, you might be convinced he’s clinically depressed.
And Juan Martin del Potro certainly had reason to shut down, emotionally and mentally, through the early stages of his first Grand Slam final. This was, after all, the US Open, the tournament that he dreamed about winning as a child back in Tandil, Argentina. And when he was at the brink of realizing that fantasy, who did he find blocking his path but Roger Federer. Not only was Federer the five-time defending champion, he had slashed his way through five different finalists in that 40-match supernova. Del Potro could be forgiven for feeling a little like a customer in a bakery, clutching his numbered ticket, patiently waiting for his turn to take a beating.
By the end, though, del Potro looked more executioner than convict; if he wasn’t exactly dancing, his feet were getting him where he needed to go. He stood tall and erect, emboldened by the reliable thunder emanating from his racquet. Were those really wings, sprouting from his shoulder blades?
That, probably was the distinguishing feature of del Potro’s gritty performance on the concrete playing field of Arthur Ashe stadium. He found a way to stand tall, to be what he is, and what he is tonight is the new US Open champion.
Go, go Delpo. A US Open championship that took a lot of time to take flight saved its finest cameos for the last two days as Kim Clijsters offered a whole dimension to Mummy Power and Juan Martin Del Potro, a gentle giant of a young man, stole Roger Federer’s thunder in the men’s final, cementing his place among the legends.
To beat Federer you have to prove you mean business. After one and a half sets, Del Potro looked forlorn, angry, downcast and well on his way to being beaten, quite probably in straight sets. That was how it appeared from the outside. On the inside, he had never given up the fight and that, against Federer, is very much half the battle. [...]
And so Federer is stuck on 15 grand slams while Del Potro joins those who have tasted the experience for the first time. The chances are, he will not rest there. Having ostensibly been raised on clay, he is a superb hard court player and his game would transfer well to grass if only he could bring himself to believe more in the surface. After all, at 6’6″ with a serve like his, ground-strokes that scorch the surface and the attitude that will have been hardened by this remarkable success, he is a threat everywhere.
From Wertheim’s Q&A:
SI.com: Were you surprised by the 20-year-old’s win?
Wertheim: In a way, del Potro doesn’t live in the Federer Era. He’s eight years younger. I think that helps a bit in his approach. He was already a top six player coming into the Open, but he showed something that other elite players lack. Rafael Nadal stands up to Federer, and after that on the men’s side, not so much. For del Potro to stare down Roger, fall down two sets to one and come from behind is almost more impressive than if he had just been in a zone like he was against Nadal. His stamina has been in question, so the way he won was rather stunning. One had to think that either Roger would bully him from the start and go on to win or you would have a situation like when Marat Safin upset Pete Sampras. I think we wound up getting a little bit of both. To win your first Slam by downing Nadal in straight sets in the semis and then Federer in five? That’s not a road many go down and survive with the trophy at the end. [...]
SI.com: How lethal is del Potro’s forehand?
Wertheim: It’s like Roddick’s serve at this point. Simply devastating. He can hit it on the run, angle inside-out motions and strike with consistency. James Blake has a strong forehand, but he needs to be able to lock and load. Del Potro’s is more impressive in that he can summon the strength all over the court in a number of positions. It’s almost a joke.
Richard Deitsch for SI.com:
The game’s next big thing announced himself Monday night. But Juan Martin del Potro has been on the fast track for some time now. The 20-year-old Argentine was the youngest player in the year-end top 10 in 2008, the youngest player in the year-end top 50 in 2007, the youngest player in the year-end top 100 in 2006 and the youngest player in the year-end top 200 in 2005.
But those are merely numerical landmarks. Del Potro entered a whole new category in New York: He slayed Roger Federer at the U.S. Open.
Del Potro’s stunning 3-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 victory — the match lasted 4 hours and 6 minutes — was Federer’s first loss at the Open since 2003, a span of 41 matches and 2,200 days. It was also del Potro’s first win over the Swiss star in seven tries. Most impressive of all, del Potro became the first player to defeat Rafael Nadal and Federer in back-to-back matches at a Grand Slam tournament.
“I thought he hung in there and gave himself chances, and in the end was the better man,” Federer said.
It was a remarkable display of power tennis from del Potro, who seemingly flicked a switch in the middle of the second set after a case of nerves in the opener.
But perhaps we should have seen this coming. Del Potro is 17-1 since Wimbledon and responsible for Nadal’s worst defeat in a Grand Slam, a 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 semifinal rout on Sunday. Marat Safin, who beat Pete Sampras here in 2000, was the last No. 6 seed to win the title. But that win came in a blowout; del Potro defeated Federer in one of the epic U.S. Open finals.
Vaguely notable more-of-the-sames: ESPN’s Greg Garber, The Guardian, New York Times
My take, for what it’s worth (not much): a couple of people mentioned getting a ‘Safin 2000′ vibe from JMDP in the lead-up to the finals, and I thought that if he had a shot, it would be to put in a Safin-like performance and simply blow Federer off the court in straight sets. With that in mind, I was so disheartened to see him clearly crippled by nerves for the first set and a half, to the extent where his shots just didn’t have the same bite. I gave up on him then and I gave up on him after he double-faulted away the third set (I honestly thought that those consecutive double faults were going to haunt me until the end of time.)
But he kept coming back, and not just after that but a lot of seriously notorious misses. A lot of people keep pointing to the 5-4 game with Federer serving for the second set, which is where the match really started to turn, JMDP hitting two brilliant forehand winners to break (helped out by Hawkeye). But watching the match without knowing how it would end, I felt like there was moment after moment like this for JMDP; losing his serve, big misses at what could have been crucial points, how exhausted he looked at the beginning of the fourth set … Any one of a number of points could have been the time for him to jack it in. But he didn’t. He hung on by his fingernails to stay with Federer, clawed his way back in, refused to be downheartened by the loss of the third set, and by the end of the match had raced out in front.
It wasn’t, let’s be honest, his best performance. But it was perhaps the bravest and toughest performance I’ve ever seen him give. I don’t know whether beating Federer in straight sets or breaking him down in five is the greater accomplishment. I just know I have a ton of respect for Elf’s, er, brain right now.
As for Federer, his loss can basically be attributed (if you ignore the six-foot-six guy across the net cracking forehand winners at speeds that were pretty much supersonic) to his woeful serving. But if you ask me (you didn’t), he also came out a bit fatally undercooked. He started off fantastically and then simply relaxed a bit too much, got a bit showboat-y just like he did in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, and assumed JMDP wouldn’t come back. He also had some bizarre shot selection throughout the match which I can’t help but attribute to a kind of lack of respect; he simply couldn’t believe that JMDP could go on making those great shots when he hit to his forehand. He won’t play again like he did today against JMDP.
I’m not the best at evaluating tennis (ha! you may have noticed that), but on pure strength of will, work rate and fight, I do think JMDP totally deserved to win. And I’m not biased. At all.
Anyway. Dale the gentle giant!