Matches of the Year: No. 3 – Djokovic vs. Del Potro, Wimbledon

The Grandstand presents its 2013 Matches of the Year, continuing with No. 3. Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro faced each other five times in 2013. All five clashes were competitive and most were downright mesmerizing. None, however, was more incredible than their Wimbledon semifinal showdown. Ricky Dimon and Hasan Murad recap the five-setter.

Novak Djokovic d. Juan Martin Del Potro 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-7(6), 6-3 – Wimbledon semifinals

The only man to have won a major title outside the Big 4 of men’s tennis since the 2005 Australian Open, Del Potro is usually the biggest threat to the emperors of Grand Slam tennis. This time around, however, the Argentine was not expected to sternly challenge a heavily-favored opponent because he went into the match with a twisted left ankle and a hyper-extended left knee.

If that’s what you thought, think again. What became the longest-ever Wimbledon semi final featured a majestic display of tennis and boasted tremendous will-power from both players as they battled for four hours and 44 minutes.

Del Potro stayed on level terms with Djokovic in the first set until 6-5, when the Serb pocketed a service break to steal the opener from seemingly out of nowhere. The quality of tennis really started to pick up as Del Potro dodged four break points to reach 3-3 in set two. Charging to the net while unleashing a roar, Del Potro flicked a cross-court forehand winner in response to a crafty drop-shot by Djokovic for a 0-30 advantage in the seventh game. A flustered Djokovic and an inspired Del Potro led to a decisive break of serve in the second set for the underdog.

Both men entertained a capacity crowd with scintillating shot-making throughout the third. Del Potro fended off three set points at 5-6 to force a tiebreaker, but Djokovic’s well-rounded play –including a rare serve-and- volley tactic—was too much. The Serb dominated the ‘breaker while conceding just two points.

The duo was producing a rare brand of grass-court tennis. Del Potro’s burning forehands howling through the air were consistently thwarted by Djokovic’s unbelievable acrobatic lunges. Djokovic seemed to be in cruise-control when he seized a break of serve at 3-3, but Del Potro astounded as he broke back by virtue of a perfectly-hammered down- the-line backhand winner. The No. 8 seed showed no signs of discomfort as he continued to inspire disbelief in just about everyone, including his opponent—who often procured a wry smile in response. The match’s excitement reached a zenith when Del Potro won an epic fourth-set tiebreaker. Along the way he survived two match points in almost hard-to-believe fashion with a series of thunderous forehands off his racket.

The rigors of the fourth set seemed to take their toll on the tower of Tandil, whereas Djokovic was as ready-to-go as ever. The world No. 1 retained his concentration, and his excellent blend of attacking and defensive tennis broke his adversary’s resolve as Del Potro lost serve at 3-4. Djokovic closed out a relatively-muted final set with a hold at 5-3 to reach his 11th Grand Slam final.

The top seed and 2011 champion felt honored to have partaken in such a memorable match and heaped praise on his valiant rival. “That’s why (Del Potro) is a Grand Slam champion,” Djokovic said. “He came up with some top shots. Credit to him. It was one of the best matches I’ve been a part of.”

“I think it was unbelievable to watch,” Del Potro reflected, “but of course I’m sad because I lost and I was close to beating him. In the end, I think he played unbelievable. I played my best tennis ever on grass , but it was not enough.”

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6 Comments on Matches of the Year: No. 3 – Djokovic vs. Del Potro, Wimbledon

  1. I enjoyed watching this match so much. Delpo has become so comfortable on the grass. I wondered how he would hold up considering that he was dealing with a knee problem. I didn’t know what to expect. But Delpo really showed some grit and heart as he came back strong in that second set. I was really surprised to see him able to hang in there and produce some of the best tennis since he came back from the wrist injury.

    Djoker just couldn’t seem to shake Delpo. I thought Djoker would close it out in the fourth set, but Delpo had other ideas.

    An entertaining match with two guys playing some outstanding tennis.

  2. fourth set was the set of the year (maybe tied with the 4th set of Isner-Haas and the 5th of Wawrinka-Djokovic)

    Delpo-Djokovic also played the set of the year in 2012 (2nd at the US Open)

  3. I would also include Nadal-Djokovic RG semi 5th set in the best sets of 2013. But yea the fourth set of this match was abnormally good !

    Djokovic Delpo matches are very very entertaining

    • +1

      Insane 5th set. Had everything, drama, momentum shifts, controversy and incresible shotmaking. That was the set of the year IMO.

      Just rewatched that set and the French actually cheered loudly when Rafa broke back in the 5th. What a fickle bunch. I remember them going crazy when Nole broke Rafa three times straight during the heavy rain in 2012. Match should’ve stopped long before.

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