Juan Martin Del Potro.
Get used to that name, because, barring injury, you will be hearing it often in the years to come if you follow men's tennis.
The soon-to-be 21-year-old Argentine Del Potro won his first major title last night in New York City. The US Open is the concluding major championship of each tennis season.
Nothing too special, of course. Del Potro only defeated the five-time defending US Open Champion Roger Federer. And came back from being down two sets to one to get the job done.
Del Potro's exceptional 3-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 men's singles victory is a magnificent gift to a sport which is looking to expand its upper-echelon men's rivalries. Finally, it seems, there is another player besides Rafael Nadal who can challenge Federer in major championship finals matches.
Coming into this showdown, few would have believed that Federer would lose not one, but two, tiebreakers to a man playing in his first Grand Slam final.
Yet that is exactly what happened on Monday night, and Del Potro's ability to capitalize during those moments which have so often been Federer's safety net was both stunning and exhilarating to behold. Federer had been 4-0 in US Open tiebreakers before last night.
The Argentine's win vaults him ahead of world No. 3 Andy Murray in the quest to break the current Federer-Nadal major titles stranglehold. Murray, of Scotland, is still seeking his first major championship.
Del Potro now joins world No. 4 Novak Djokovic (2008 Australian Open) as the only other men's singles major championship winner save Federer and Nadal since the 2005 Australian Open, won by Marat Safin.
Unlike Federer's faltering performance in the fifth set of the 2009 Australian Open versus rival Nadal, this match was "won," so to speak, by Juan Martin Del Potro, and not "lost" by Roger Federer. Del Potro showed few nerves throughout the match and demonstrated he was ready to succeed on the largest stage when given the opportunity.
Del Potro's size, power and agility overwhelmed Federer in the end. His shot making and tactics were exceptional. Federer played very well; Del Potro simply played better.
The result shows that Del Potro's straight-sets victory over Nadal in the semifinals here was no fluke. Even though Rafael was clearly not at full strength for that contest, Del Potro has won the last several of those men's encounters. Watching the Argentine Monday night, such outcomes no longer seem to be anomalies.
What, then, of the Swiss?
Though Federer certainly would have liked to prevail in this final, he cannot be disappointed in either his effort in this match or the totality of his 2009 season up to this point.
He won two major titles, completed the career Grand Slam by capturing the French Open, regained his No. 1 ranking and proved that he is still far from finished as many openly declared was the case following Federer's 2008 Wimbledon defeat to Nadal.
However, Federer now has another legitimate major championship rival to go along with Nadal, Djokovic and Murray. Adjustments will have to be made, strategies reconsidered.
Del Potro was gracious, respectful and engaging following his victory. Men's tennis has been searching for a member of the next generation to step up and show that they were ready to go to the next level.
Last night, Juan Martin Del Potro answered the challenge. It was a great night for the Argentine, and an even better evening for the sport of tennis.
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