• London 2012 - Tennis

Federer downs Del Potro in Olympic epic

ESPN staff
August 3, 2012
Olympic finalist: © PA Photos

Roger Federer's Olympic singles dream remains alive following an epic three-set win over Juan Martin Del Potro to reach the final.

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The Swiss came up against a barrage of early pressure, as Del Potro teed off to great effect on both wings, but he dug in to take the second set in a tiebreak before winning a titanic third to prevail 3-6 7-6(5) 19-17.

Del Potro, who famously beat Federer in the US Open final of 2009, was not daunted by taking on the Swiss and after trading blows for seven games he worked a break. A cheeky lob caught out the world No. 1 who could only send a backhand smash over the baseline to set up the break point. The Argentine has a cannon of a forehand and a couple of blistering shots broke through and he did not pass up the chance by holding to take the opening set.

It looked like one-way traffic at the start of the second as Del Potro continued to fire with his forehand, but Federer kept in the match and after forcing a tiebreak he took it to level the match.

The quality was high in the first two sets and it was raised again in the third. Federer looked impregnable on serve and he forced Del Potro into some startling play to keep himself in the match. Trailing 0-30 in the 17th game, the Argentine pulled out a diving volley for a winner that the great Boris Becker would have been proud of.

It took shots of such brilliance to keep Del Potro in the match as Federer fired on serve and hit cleanly from the back of the court.

Federer had 0-40 and 0-30 at 14-14 and 15-15 but Del Potro dug himself out of a hole on both occasions.

But as the match ticked past four hours to become the longest in Olympic history and with Federer completely dominant on serve, he held to love on seven occasions in the final set, Del Potro could not keep the Swiss at bay. And it 17-17, Federer worked three break points and his opponent netted a forehand on the second of them.

But the drama was still not done as Federer passed up a match point. He worked the opening superbly but instead of hitting to an open court he gave Del Potro a chance to get the ball back and then netted a volley with the court open.

It seemed as if the winner of 17 grand slams was nervous, but he worked another match point and after four hours and 26 minutes of tennis of the highest quality on Centre Court, Del Potro netted a backhand to enable Federer to advance to the final.

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