By Jane Voigt
Juan Martin del Potro did what other players dream of … defeating Rafael Nadal. The Argentine remained aggressive, consistent and mentally intact throughout the ATP Shanghai Masters 1000 semifinal, delivering the world No. 1 Nadal his second loss of the week, 62 64.
“Juan Martin outplayed Rafa today,” Darren Cahill, ESPN analyst and coach, tweeted.
Nadal lost to Novak Djokovic in the finals of the China Open last Sunday in Beijing, but took over the top world-ranking spot. Throughout the season, the days between defeats for Nadal have dwindled. According to Cahill, Nadal went 69 days without a defeat, then 75, 103, and now 6.
Del Potro’s forehand was something for the Spaniard to track as it penetrated the court out of reach today. Del Potro offensively rallied, forcing Rafa to use his forehand and, thus, falling into untenable positions where he faded farther and farther behind the baseline. The angles that Del Potro created invited him to step in and crack winners — a total of 28 for the match.
His career record against number-one players now stands at 7-9 with wins over Roger Federer (3), Rafael Nadal (2), and Novak Djokovic (2), according to the ATP. The victory will put the six-six Argentine ‘Delpo’ directly across the net from Djokovic in the final scheduled for Sunday. The No. 1 seed defeated Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in the other semifinal, 62 75.
Del Potro saved 6 of 6 break points in his win to reach his third career ATP Masters 1000 final, and second of the year. In Indian Wells, he lost in the final to Nadal. Today’s win was Del Potro’s first over Nadal in four years, too. Del Potro becomes the only player this year to score wins over both Nadal and Djokovic.
After Del Potro had paid his respects to Nadal at the net, he tossed his racquet aside, took a couple long strides, and leapt about as far as he could punching the air like a boxer.
With this semifinal victory, he qualifies for the final eight and and awaits his invitation to the Barclays ATP World Tour Final in London, on November 4. It will be his fourth appearance at the prestigious tournament where he was the finalist in 2009. He will join Nadal, Djokovic, David Ferrer, and most likely, Tomas Berdych. Stanislaus Wawrinka, Roger Federer, Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, and Milos Raonic remain poised to take one of the four remaining berths in London.
Tomorrow’s final is Del Potro’s sixth of 2013. Djokovic holds a 9-3 head-to-head record against him. Their semifinal match at Wimbledon, their last meeting, will end up in the top three matches of the year; therefore, fans will be on high-expectation alert as the two walk onto the Qizhong Forest Arena. Tomorrow’s final will also break a tie between the men. Both are undefeated in Asia this fall.