Del Potro overpowered Nadal so completely in that match, the Spaniard said: “Very few times I played against a player with a level like today.”
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.
He’s back up to the No. 5 ranking — his highest in three years — and has beaten Djokovic, Nadal and Andy 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.
“I think I’m playing even better than many years ago,” he said. “I got good things on my career this year. I couldn’t win a Grand Slam like I did in 2009, but I reach finals in the 1000 (level) Masters. I already win three tournaments. I beat the top guys, which is fantastic for me.”
The match looked like it might be a runaway win for Djokovic early on as he raced out to a 5-0 lead in the first set by dictating play with precise groundstrokes and keeping a sluggish del Potro on the defensive.
But the momentum shifted in the second set when del Potro began connecting on his serve and cracking the same forehand winners he used to sweep Nadal off the court in straight sets in the previous round.
He broke Djokovic to take an early lead, then played a magnificent game to save three break points to hold for 5-2 before closing out the set.
The Argentine appeared to tire slightly as the third set wore on. During one changeover, the chair umpire, Damien Dumusois, warned him that he needed to speed up play between points. “Even after a long rally?” Del Potro asked, looking up wearily. Dumusois nodded yes.