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Three reasons why Juan Martin del Potro will beat Rafael Nadal in the U.S. Open semi-finals

Andrew Hendrie in ATP Tour 7 Sep 2018
  • Juan Martin del Potro faces Rafael Nadal in the U.S. Open semi-finals on Friday at 4.00pm local time (9.00pm BST)
  • We outline three reasons why the Argentine can end Nadal's title defence
Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Juan Martin del Potro has possibly his best chance to win a Grand Slam since he won his one and only major title to date at the 2009 U.S. Open, but to have a chance he must beat World No. 1 and defending champion Rafael Nadal in Friday’s semi-finals. Read on below as we outline three reasons why the Argentine powerhouse can conquer the Spanish sensation.

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Del Potro is fresh, Nadal isn’t


In a change of pace from usual normality, Juan Martin del Potro is the man who is fit and fresh heading into the business end of a Grand Slam, winning 15 of the 16 sets he’s contested en route to the semi-finals, losing his only set of the tournament in a tiebreak to John Isner in the quarter-finals. Finishing strongly to knock off the American 6-2 in the fourth, del Potro has been in outstanding form this fortnight, especially in clinical victories over Fernando Verdasco and Borna Coric.

Nadal, on the other hand, hasn’t been at his best so far after being stretched to four sets by Karen Khachanov and Nikoloz Basilashvili before surviving a five-set epic against Dominic Thiem, prevailing in a fifth-set tiebreak in a quarter-final that didn’t finish until 2.00am local time. All of those aforementioned opponents are fantastic ball-strikers and naturally aggressive players - del Potro is in the same mould, but on a different level to all three, especially on a hardcourt. Nadal has proven he can recover from five-set marathons before, but del Potro is a different step up in class and is producing some excellent tennis himself. If del Potro plays his best, he’s the man who will be calling the shots.

Nadal has never defended a major title outside of Roland Garros


Nadal is one of the greatest champions this sport has ever known, but the Spaniard has never successfully defended a Grand Slam at the Australian Open, Wimbledon or U.S. Open, and with the way he’s been troubled and his gruelling path to the semi-finals, I don’t see him doing it for the first time in New York. I thought Nadal looked vulnerable in Toronto despite winning the title, and if Marin Cilic maintained his high level, he would have won their quarter-final. Del Potro can certainly hit that level of tennis and stay there, and combined with Nadal’s tendency to fall short in hardcourt title defences in majors, the Argentine is poised to take advantage. Nadal was fortunate to survive his quarter-final with Thiem, but if del Potro brings that same level and intensity, I think the Spaniard’s title defence comes to an end on Friday.

Del Potro has done it before at Flushing Meadows


Albeit it was nine years ago and he hasn’t been able to beat Nadal in a slam since, del Potro can still take confidence in the fact he obliterated Nadal 6-2 6-2 6-2 in the semi-finals on his way to winning the 2009 U.S. Open title. Both men would like to think they are better players almost a decade down the road, but their game styles haven’t changed, so del Potro knows that if he is at his explosive best and executing his booming groundstrokes and serve to perfection, Nadal doesn’t really have a say in baseline exchanges. As always, it will be a matter of if del Potro can remain at a consistently high standard over four hours, but he wasn’t too far away at Wimbledon a couple of months ago, and as mentioned before, Nadal has spent a lot of time on court in these hot and humid conditions. Del Potro knows what to do - attack the Nadal forehand to open up the weaker backhand - and if he executes that game plan, he will put himself in a winning position.

Del Potro vs Nadal 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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Three reasons why Juan Martin del Potro will beat Rafael Nadal in the U.S. Open semi-finals

Juan Martin del Potro has possibly his best chance to win a Grand Slam since he won his one and only major title to date at the 2009 U.S. Open, but to have a chance he must beat World No. 1 and defending champion Rafael Nadal in Friday’s semi-finals. Read on below as we outline three reasons why the Argentine powerhouse can conquer the Spanish sensation.

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