Del Potro Upsets Federer To Win U.S. Open

Reigning U.S. Open men's tennis champion Roger Federer was upset in Monday's final match by Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina.


It was a big night for Argentina tonight at the U.S. Open and a stunning upset as 20-year-old Juan Martin del Potro defeated the five-time defending champion Roger Federer. The match lasted more than four hours and went to five sets.

NPR's Tom Goldman joins us now. And Tom, this was thrilling to watch - this number six seed from Argentina, upsetting number one Roger Federer, denying him his sixth consecutive win.

TOM GOLDMAN: Yeah, just as you said, stunning, Melissa. I mean, the thing about Roger Federer that he has taught us over the years winning 15 major championships is that, you know, he finds a way to win. And he wasn't playing all that well tonight through the first four sets. And when he lost the tiebreaker in the fourth set of the men's final tonight, you know, you just had to feel, okay, well, you know, good job, del Potro. You took it to the fifth set and now Roger will walk away with this thing.

But, boy, del Potro just didn't let up. He is a powerful young man, nine days short of his 21st birthday, six foot, six inches, hits a - just a thunderous forehand and big, booming serves. And, boy, he just - you know, Federer, when he was in - he was in some of the points, but then he would hit balls wide. And I just think he wilted under the power and the pressure of this new phenom in tennis.

BLOCK: The Argentine skyscraper, I heard one of the commentators refer to him as. And this was, I think, his first grand slam title ever, right - for del Potro?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, it was. I believe he played Federer at the - in the semifinals of the French Open this year and lost in five sets. And it was a match that Federer was really happy with after he won that. So he knows this guy's tough. And del Potro got even tonight in New York.

BLOCK: And there were not - maybe not some records tonight, but some long-standing time (unintelligible) that were met the first time an Argentine has won the U.S. Open since 1977. That was Guillermo Vilas, I saw him in the stands as I was watching on TV.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, one of my favorites - I'm old enough to remember (unintelligible) he was the left-hander, they called him the bull of the Pampas. And Guillermo Vilas was this flashing, great, debonair, powerful Argentine himself - much smaller than del Potro. But, yeah, it's been - so what does that make it? Thirty-two years…

BLOCK: Thirty-two years.

GOLDMAN: …since (unintelligible) been in the winner's circle. So, yeah, that was a very exciting night.

BLOCK: Yeah, and the second longest final in U.S. Open history, after John McEnroe's defeat over Bjorn Borg in 1980. It was interesting when he was in the winner's circle hoisting that trophy, Juan Martin del Potro got emotional. He was crying tonight.

GOLDMAN: He was. He said something in Spanish, too, that I wasn't able to - I don't speak Spanish so I'm not sure what it was, but it was a very emotional night. What was really striking, though, was how he kept a hold of his emotions. It looked for a quick moment in the fourth set like he was just out of gas and that Federer was going to finish him off. But somehow he summoned the energy, won a couple of key points, as we said earlier, forced it to a tiebreaker, won the tiebreaker and then, boy, in the fifth set just ran away with it.

BLOCK: NPR's Tom Goldman. Thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: My pleasure.

BLOCK: That's Tom Goldman talking about the upset today at the U.S. Open with 20-year-old Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina defeating the five-time defending champion Roger Federer.

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