by Lisa-Marie Burrows
ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, Rotterdam – Big serving Argentine Juan Martín Del Potro took to court with one mission on his mind – booking a place into the final. The 6ft 6” Del Potro was one of three top ten men in the semifinals and recorded his third victory over Tomas Berdych in four meetings 6-3, 6-1.
After a thunderous 6-0, 6-1 quarterfinal performance against Viktor Troicki, Del Potro proved he was in no mood to mess around once again. He took on second seed Tomas Berdych on Saturday afternoon and ignited his outstanding performance once again.
The first set saw Del Potro break the Czech in his opening service game after a slow start from the world No.7 and the third seed did not look back. He did not face a break point against his own serve and continued to unleash his heavy forehand during exchanged rallies.
During the ninth game, Berdych was serving to stay in the set at 3-5 and after executing a backhand into the tramlines and an untimely foot fault the Czech faced another three break points and ultimately lost the set 3-6.
The second set delivered another outstanding performance from the resurgent Argentine as he timed his shots with perfection. The Czech looked bewildered as he found no replies to the belligerence of shots and booming forehands and only managed to take one game in the entire set before losing to Del Potro 1-6.
During the press conference, the Argentine was understandably pleased with his performance and happy to reach the final on his debut at the tournament:
“I played almost perfect today. I was focused all of the time. I was focused with my forehands and I think that was the key of the match.”
Is he at his very best Grand Slam winning level yet? Not quite, but he’s not far away. “I am improving match by match. I played better than yesterday and should play better tomorrow.”
Tomorrow will bring a very difficult task for the former US Open champion as he faces 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer after his tough three set defeat over unseeded Nikolay Davydenko 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
It was the Russian who took first blood in the opening set after playing some sublime rallies. Davydenko ran faster than a cheetah and punched the ball harder than a boxer to continuously pull Federer from one side of the court to the other. The Russian refused to play high percentage tennis as he struck the ball exquisitely on the rise whilst gunning for the lines.
His patience was rewarded in the ninth game after striking a forehand at the feet of Federer and subsequently broke at 5-4.
After a long service game Davydenko’s nerves of steel refused to bow down to Federer and his cheering army of fans as he eventually took the set 6-4 after a mistimed Federer forehand sailed out of the court.
With the crowd stunned into silence, Davydenko’s game continued to progress and once again he put his wheels into motion and broke the world No.3 in the third game after Federer’s usually reliable forehand was struck wide into the tramlines. The atmosphere around the court intensified and the crowd murmured in speculation at the possibility of Federer losing.
Speculation and concern did not last long after a sloppy sixth game from the Russian and a change of tactics from Federer. He began to attack the net and mix up the pace of the game by adding in beautifully timed drop shots and lobs. The variation of play and supportive applause from the crowd spurred the former world No.1 to break back and the wheels fell off the game of the Russian as he received attention to his right leg. He was broken a further time in the eighth game before losing the set 3-6.
In the third set both players had opportunities to break and faced break point pressure during their service games. The spark that had ignited at the start of the first set appeared to be diminishing for Davydenko as he failed to convert three break point opportunities and during the next game was 0-40 in his service game.
To the delight of the crowd, Federer broke in the ninth game and comfortably served out the match at 6-4.
“I struggled sometimes with my timing but still thought I was right in the match. It was a fun match to play, but it was tough. I hope it is a big match for me in 2012 because these are the kind of matches that sometimes you show to yourself that if you have confidence the next thing you know, you could win the title tomorrow.”
The exhilarating semifinals will bring a rematch of the 2009 US Open match between Roger Federer and Juan Martín Del Potro, which saw the Argentine win his first Grand Slam of his career and hope that he can find the same form to beat the crowd favourite once again on Sunday.
Lisa-Marie Burrows is in Rotterdam covering the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament as media. You can follow her on Twitter @TennisNewsViews
Catch all the action this week and follow professional tennis photographer Rick Gleijm as he covers ATP Tour’s ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. The gallery below includes all the semifinals action, both on-court and the press conferences.
(All photos © Rick Gleijm)