Honestly, the whole match could have been a “Hot Shot” — but this point in particular was a deciding break in the second set, as del Potro eventually overcame Nadal 6-2, 6-4 at the Shanghai Masters.
Just watch as Nadal exhibits spectacular defense, returning a forehand that should have been a winner. But it was del Potro’s final reflex volley that sealed the point, and his overarching determination that decided the match.
It seems that every time you turn around, del Potro is coming off some epic, intense performance against one top-10 player or another. And coming up just short less often than it may seem.
But those shortcomings are seeming fewer and farther between…
Del Potro ended up losing the final in Shanghai to Djokovic 6-1, 3-6, 7-6, but the spirit, the determination, the drive that he showed during the tournament is not to be ignored.
If he continues to play like this in 2014, he will be a formidable contender for the top echelon in tennis.
After the Shanghai final, Djokovic confessed:
“He’s a big fighter. All the way up to the last point, I don’t know if I’m going to win the match. His forehand is one of the best in the game, one of the best I’ve ever played against. It’s a huge weapon and once it’s on, it’s very dangerous.”
Del Potro is back up to the No. 5 ranking — his highest in three years — and has beaten Djokovic, Nadal and Murray this year. He also scored one of the biggest wins of his career over Djokovic at the London Olympics last year, where he beat the Serb in the bronze medal match.
Last week, he qualified for the elite eight for the ATP World Tour finals, and that means he’ll have at least one more chance this year to close a deal he’s been working on patiently and doggedly for nearly three years now.
Del Potro served notice that he’s fully fit and confident. He’s overcome a wrist injury that nearly derailed his career after his breakthrough win at the 2009 U.S. Open.
The Shanghai final was a tough loss for del Potro, who was trying to win his first Masters title at his third attempt. He was coming off a title last week at the Japan Open in Tokyo, and earned his first win over Nadal in four years in the semifinals in Shanghai.
During the trophy presentation, Djokovic tried to console an obviously disappointed del Potro, one of his better friends on the tour.
“You’re a great person and an even better player on the court,” Djokovic said. “I’m sorry you lost today. You deserve this trophy equally.”
“What can I say, man, I’m trying to be nice to you,” he added, smiling, before giving the Argentine a hug.
As del Potro edges closer to No. 1, don’t expect those hugs to be so easily forthcoming in the future…
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