- ATP Tour
Djokovic fails to set up Nadal final as Del Potro wins
Novak Djokovic missed out on the chance to face Rafael Nadal in the final of the BNP Paribas Open after the world No. 1 suffered his first ATP Tour loss of the year to a fiery Juan Martin Del Potro in Saturday's semi-finals.
Del Potro threw everything at his rival in an unpredictable contest that swung towards one player and then the other on several occasions, and it was the Argentine who came from a set down to win 4-6 6-4 6-4.
The pre-match history between the two players made for interesting reading at Indian Wells, with Del Potro a conqueror of Djokovic in the Bronze Medal Match at the London 2012 Olympics, before losing the next four encounters.
Del Potro was chasing a piece of history in California, aiming to emulate Guillermo Vilas as the first Argentinian finalist since 1977. He started competitively too, denying his rival a break chance in his opening three service games.
That changed in his fourth as wayward forehands twice gave Djokovic the chance to break, the second of which prompted Del Potro to swing his racket in anger. However, he saved both and then another two to draw cheers from the crowd as he clung on at 4-4.
More adversity fell Del Potro's way in his next service game as Djokovic carved out three set points, the Serb using his quite astounding defensive skills to convert at the third time of asking.
It felt like a pivotal moment with Del Potro now facing a three-set war just 24 hours after he battled his way past Murray. Djokovic was chasing a 56th ATP Tour final, and the momentum was firmly with the world No. 1.
However, it was Djokovic who surprisingly suffered a loss of concentration as he tamely ceded his opening service game of the second to gift Del Potro his first break of the match. The top seed immediately broke back but then lost his serve again to an all-or-nothing backhand from Del Potro - marking four consecutive breaks in the match.
It was becoming the classic attack v defence encounter, with Del Potro attempting to blast through Djokovic's rearguard action. Increasingly the world No. 7 found joy, creating two more break chances with Djokovic serving at 2-4. He nailed the second with a forehand winner up the line and then - after handing one break back - served out to level the match.
Both men exchanged a break of serve as the match entered a decider, but it was Del Potro who made the decisive move to lead 5-4. Djokovic took him to 30-30, but Del Potro closed it out after two hours and 50 minutes.