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The Oldest of Old News …

Posted by gauloises1 on June 11, 2009

Sorry, but while I wait for my Queens photos to upload, I just wanted to share with you this from Steve Flink’s French Open Reflections:

In the semifinals, Federer needed to demonstrate some of the same strength of character to make it past Juan Martin Del Potro. Del Potro had never made an impression in five previous clashes with Federer. He had yet to take a set off his renowned adversary, and had often looked clumsy and tactically tone deaf against Federer.                

This time around, the 6’6” Del Potro went out to face Federer with a completely different mindset. He reminded all of us why he had achieved wins this year over Nadal and Murray, and how he had managed to sweep four tournaments in a row last summer. For three sets, Del Potro held Federer almost entirely at bay. He was setting the tempo in this contest almost entirely, driving his ground strokes with phenomenal depth and astonishing ball control. Moreover, his serve was excellent. In his previous meetings with Federer, I always had the feeling the Swiss could read the Del Potro serve easily and find a way to block it back and work his way into the point.                

Not so this time around. Del Potro was finding the corners with regularity, locating his serve immaculately, winning tons of free points in the process. Del Potro broke Federer twice in winning the first set, and he had a chance to take the second. Federer was serving at 4-5, 0-30, but he bailed himself out with some clutch play. In the second set tie-break, Del Potro came apart at the seams. By my count, he made four unforced errors in that sequence and never was really in it. It was one set all.                

That was when I fully expected Federer to break free of his inhibition, but he did nothing of the kind. In the opening game of the third set, Federer misfired off the forehand consecutively to trail 0-30 and he lost his serve. Del Potro broke again and took that set confidently 6-2. When Del Potro served at 1-2 in the fourth, he had every reason to be confident. He had not lost his serve in the entire match. He was ahead two sets to one. He was in an enviable position.                

But in that significant game, Del Potro wasted two game points, the second with a double fault. Federer pounced. Now Federer was up 3-1 in the fourth, and he held at love for 4-1 and broke again for 5-1 on a Del Potro double fault. Revitalized, Federer held at love to run out the set 6-1, serving two aces in the last game. Federer charged to 3-1 in the fifth but Del Potro turned up the ignition of his ground game once more to break back for 3-3.                

At 3-3, Del Potro must have sensed another big chance to win. But perhaps he sensed it too much and he tightened up considerably. He went down 0-40 in that game, got back to deuce, but then lost the next two points, double faulting that game away. He missed all eight first serves in that game. His chance was gone. Federer closed out the match 3-6 7-6 (2), 2-6, 6-1, 6-4. But I liked the way Del Potro handled his defeat. He was clearly depressed by his narrow miss, and said more than once, “I feel bad.” That was good news to everyone who wants to see him take his game to the next level and become a champion. He was hurting, and that was not a bad thing.

Strikes me as a concise and clear description of that match …

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