The Grandstand has compiled its list of the Top 10 Matches of the Year for 2017. Matches were ranked from a combination of Top 10 lists made by the Grandstand’s Ricky Dimon, Joey Hanf of Cliff Drysdale Tennis, voting at MensTennisForums, and Twitter user Ben Conti.
No. 4: Juan Martin Del Potro d. Dominic Thiem 1-6, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(1), 6-4, U.S. Open fourth round
Nobody on tour plays instant classics at a greater rate than Juan Martin Del Potro. Unfortunately the sample size is smaller that it should be given that injuries have disintegrated his overall number of matches played throughout the last seven years.
It looked like physical problems would also deprive a packed house inside the Grandstand from seeing any kind of U.S. Open epic between Del Potro and Thiem on Labor Day. In the words of ESPN commentator Darren Cahill, Del Potro “looked like death” while practicing on Sunday. Twenty-four hours later, the Argentine looked the same while winning a grand total of three games during the first two sets against Thiem.
Retirement was undoubtedly near…. Well, it would have been perhaps at any other tournament or on any other court.
“I was trying to retire (from) the match in the second set,” Del Potro admitted afterward. “I was thinking to retire in the middle of the second set because I couldn’t breathe; I couldn’t move well. Then I saw the crowd waiting for more tennis, waiting for my good forehands (and) good serves. I took all that energy to change in a good way and think about fight and not retire.”
Good forehands? Good serves? That would be an understatement. Digging deep to find energy that had been nonexistent before, Del Potro–firing forehands that impressed even Roger Federer–dominated the third set with the loss of just one game. A wild fourth set saw the 2009 U.S. Open champion save two match points at 5-6, both with aces.
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) September 5, 2017
It was all Del Potro the rest of the way. The No. 24 seed cruised through the fourth-set ‘breaker seven points to one, clinching it with a cross-court forehand winner that appeared to be shot out of a cannon. Thiem at least managed to make the fifth set competitive, digging out of a 0-40 hole at 2-3 and staying on serve until 4-5, but he ultimately could not recover from having squandered such a huge lead. The eighth-ranked Austrian helped Del Potro cross the finish line of his incredible comeback with a double-fault on match point at 4-5, ad-out.
“I [played] one of the epic [matches] of my career here in the U.S. Open, which is my favorite tournament, in front of a great crowd,” Del Potro reflected. “That’s what I did with my hands, looking the sky (after I won). But I’m so glad to go through. [I played] a fantastic battle against one of the best players of the tour.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Thiem assured. “I mean, we’re not playing every day in an atmosphere like this…. Of course the crowd was on his side. It was very loud; obviously way more for him. But still, I like sports where there’s a great atmosphere, so I enjoyed a lot to play out there today.”
“The third set was bad. I mean, I played some really bad minutes. It was a great match I think, set four and set five. Obviously [it was a] better end for him.”