With Roger Federer dispatching Philipp Kohlschreiber not too long after an ill Juan Martin del Potro miraculously fought back from two sets down to knock out Dominic Thiem, a mouthwatering rematch of the 2009 US Open final was set.
But as Federer points out a lot has changed since they last met at Flushing Meadows and we should expect a different type of match to the one we saw eight years ago. “We’re different players today. We both play differently. Because of his surgery, his backhand has changed. He uses his slice much more. And I’m playing more aggressive, as well, on the return. I play shorter points. I don’t use my slice as much, whereas he does now.” While Federer goes on to mention that Del Potro’s serve and forehand are still as potent as ever, he highlights a changed backhand that has prevented Del Potro from returning to the very top of the game. We’ve seen it exposed a lot in recent times and Federer will look to do so again this evening. If Delpo is to get the win he needs to get the forehand going but that’s easier said than done against Federer. He’s done such a good job this year Federer of taking time away from opponents and will look to do that tonight to keep Del Potro’s forehand at bay.
The 19-time Grand Slam champion goes into the clash as the favourite and the virus Del Potro has been having to contend with does not help his cause. He’s had a couple of days to recover though after that Thiem match and will hopefully be able to produce his best tennis as he will surely have to against Federer. Federer himself has had his own fitness issues with his back being a concern coming into this tournament. Fears weren’t eased by two 5-set matches to start the tournament for the Swiss but he has looked good in the last two rounds and has said the back problem is behind him.
Del Potro stated that he was going to retire in the second set against Thiem because he was struggling with his illness so much, but that the crowd would not let him and gave him the energy he needed to launch his stunning comeback. “I was trying to retire the match in the second set,” Del Potro confirmed. “Then I saw the crowd waiting for more tennis, waiting for my good forehands, good serves. I took all that energy to change in a good way and think about fighting and not retiring.” While he won’t be able to rely on similar support tonight due to his opponent being Federer and the prospect of a Federer-Nadal semi-final that everyone wants to see looming, it will certainly be a great atmosphere and one Del Potro will look to feed off. And while most of the crowd will be cheering for Roger they will also want to see the kind of epic tussle that we saw 8 years ago in the final where Delpo caimed his sole Grand Slam title. Certainly Del Potro will be hoping if his illness does hamper him and things do start to go wrong for him he gets the encouragement from the crowd to help him turn it around.
But despite any boost from the crowd Del Potro might get if he’s not functioning at full capacity and Federer is it could be a long evening for Delpo who was brushed aside by Federer earlier this year in Miami. The Swiss star at full capacity has been too good for pretty much everybody this year and it’s hard to see that changing against Del Potro.