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Rafael Nadal vs Juan Martin del Potro US Open SF: The most memorable matches between Nadal and del Potro

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 7 Sep 2018
  • Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro meet for the seventeenth time at the US Open on Friday, live from 4:00pm local time/ 9:00pm BST
  • We look back at six of the most memorable encounters between the two juggernauts
Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin Del Potro after their Wimbledon 2018 epic. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro have served up quite a few thrillers in the past; and ahead of their upcoming US Open semi-final, we have picked out six of the most memorable matches between these two giants of the game.


Of their 16 previous meetings, Nadal won eleven, with del Potro taking five; they are locked at 5-5 on hard courts. Nadal has prevailed in their last three encounters, all of which were Grand Slam matches. The great Spaniard came from behind to win in four at the US Open last season, he got a straight set win at Roland Garros earlier this year, and edged a five-set thriller at Wimbledon just a month after that. There's hardly a dull moment when Nadal and del Potro wield tennis rackets, and we've got six of the most memorable encounters between the two men.

1. Miami Masters 2009, Juan Martin del Potro def. Rafael Nadal 6-4 3-6 7-6 (3)

Rafael Nadal had swept through his first four meetings with Juan Martin del Potro without dropping a set, but del Potro made his first move in Miami in 2009, when he took out the Spaniard in a dramatic three-set quarter final. Del Potro appeared to be cruising towards victory when he led by a set and a break, but the pendulum swung in Nadal’s favour as the Spaniard not only hit back to take the second set, but he also jumped to a 3-0 lead in the final set, with a double break.

Juan Martin dl Potro defeated Rafael Nadal for the first time in Miami in 2009.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)


The see-saw continued as del Potro stormed back to recover both breaks. Nadal battled back from 5-6 15-40 to force a tie break, but del Potro had the final say, dominating the breaker to register his first win over the Spaniard.


2. Wimbledon 2011, Rafael Nadal def. Juan Martin del Potro 7-6 (6) 3-6 7-6 (4) 6-4

Nadal and del Potro served up another great battle in their fourth round meeting at Wimbledon in 2011. Nadal, troubled by a foot injury, considered quitting after the first set, but he soldiered on to complete a hard-fought four-set win over the Tower of Tandil. After saving set point, Nadal took the opening set on a tie break, but del Potro hit back to claim the second. The third set would also go to a tie break (despite del Potro receiving treatment midway through the set) and it was Nadal who stepped up to take a two-sets-to-one lead. The Spaniard finally broke serve for the first time in the match midway through the fourth set to lead 3-2, and he did not relinquish that advantage, going on to complete the win after 3 hours and 52 minutes.

Rafael Nadal, after beating Juan Martin Del Potro at Wimbledon in 2011. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)



3. Davis Cup 2011, Rafael Nadal def. Juan Martin del Potro 1-6 6-4 6-1 7-6 (0)

Before del Potro finally guided Argentina to Davis Cup glory in 2016, he had lost his fair share of finals, one of which was in Seville, Spain in 2011. With Spain 2-1 up, Nadal had the chance to clinch a fifth title for his country, while del Potro was striving to keep Argentina alive. Nadal broke in the first game of his showdown with del Potro, but del Potro pummeled his way through six straight games in front of a shell-shocked Seville crowd. 

Nadal sank into further trouble when he fell to an early break in the second set, but he slowly settled into his task, clawed his way back to take the second set, and sped through the third set. Then came a classic roller-coaster of a fourth set. Both men served for the set at different points, but got broken on each occasion. However, Nadal applied the finishing touch in the tie break, sprinting through without dropping a point to hand Spain their fifth Davis Cup title.



4. Olympics 2016: Juan Martin del Potro bt Rafael Nadal 5-7 6-4 7-6

With the chance to win a medal for their countries on the line, Nadal and del Potro yet again went hammer and tongs at it in the semi-finals of the 2016 Olympics in Rio. 

Nadal recovered from dropping his serve in the first game to take the opening set 7-5, but del Potro struck back to grab the second. There was late drama as del Potro dropped his serve to love while attempting to close out the match at 5-4 in the third, but the Argentine regrouped to take the match on a tie break after a one-hour-26-minute third set. Del Potro had only just returned from his latest wrist surgery in February, but he showed again that he could compete with the best players in the world despite a remodeled backhand. 

Juan Martin Del Potro beat Rafael Nadal in a Rio Olympics thriller in 2016. (Photo by LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)



"It means a lot to me. It's very big, maybe even more special than when I won the US Open," said Del Potro. "I didn't expect to get to the final, I didn't expect to beat Djokovic. I am living a dream and the crowd make me cry after every match."

Between February when he made his comeback and the Olympic Games, he had beaten Stan Wawrinka at Wimbledon, and Novak Djokovic and Nadal at the Olympics. He would fall just short of beating Andy Murray in the Gold medal match in Rio. 

Nadal also had his injury problems. His participation in Rio was borne out of a desire to represent his country as he had not fully recovered from the wrist problem that forced him to quit Roland Garros. A couple of months later, he pulled the plug on his year.


5. US Open 2009, Juan Martin del Potro def. Rafael Nadal 6-2 6-2 6-2

This wasn’t about the epicness of the match, but about the sheer savagery of Juan Martin del Potro, who ruthlessly annihilated Nadal in this semi-final. The tour already knew about his power, but the 20-year-old took it to another level to condemn Nadal to his heaviest defeat in a major, in terms of number of games. That score-line is more prevalent in the opening rounds of a Slam against the tour's journeymen, and not against the great Rafael Nadal in the semi-final of a major. But del Potro proved that he is no respecter of persons nor reputations, as he absolutely clobbered Nadal off Arthur Ashe. To be fair, Nadal had had been bothered by injuries through that season, and wasn't exactly at a 100%. Remember, 2009 was the year he lost to Robin Soderling at Roland Garros, and he had been struggling with an abdominal problem during the US Open,. That however, takes nothing away from a stunning del Potro performance.






6. Wimbledon 2018, Nadal def del Potro 7-5 6-7 4-6 6-4 6-4

Nadal and del Potro served up a five-set epic at Wimbledon earlier this year, as the Spaniard recovered from two-sets-to-one down to seal a dramatic victory after almost five hours. In a match adorned with a plethora of tremendous winners, the world number one edged a gripping first-set tie break, but del Potro fought back to take the next two sets. Nadal upped the ante to win the fourth before edging a spectacular fifth set. The Spaniard broke midway through the final set, but del Potro refused to go away carving out five break chances. Nadal though, held firm, and brought a cracking contest to an end with a backhand volley.



"I think it was great quality tennis," said Nadal. "The final set there were some amazing points."

"It had a little of everything, great points, great rallies, he was hitting crazy with his forehands. I tried to resist, maintaining focus.

"Sorry to Juan Martin, an amazing opponent and player. In some ways he deserves to go through too."

If Friday's US Open semi-final is anywhere near as good as that, then we are in for a sensational evening at Flushing Meadows!

Nadal vs del Potro is live from New York on Friday, 7 September from 4:00pm local time/ 9:00pm BST. Read the full match preview!
 


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Rafael Nadal vs Juan Martin del Potro US Open SF: The most memorable matches between Nadal and del Potro

As Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro get ready for their seventeenth meeting, we pick out six of the most memorable matches from their previous encounters.

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