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Posted: Monday September 14, 2009 4:21PM; Updated: Monday September 14, 2009 10:41PM

Game-by-game analysis: Del Potro stuns Federer

By Bryan Armen Graham, SI.com

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Juan Martin del Potro rallied after a shaky start.
Al Bello/Getty Images
2009 U.S. Open
Day 15
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Juan Martin del Potro upset Roger Federer 3-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 on Monday to win the U.S. Open title. The 20-year-old Argentine denied the top-ranked Federer a sixth consecutive U.S. Open title and won his first career major. The first five-setter in a U.S. Open final in 10 years lasted 4 hours and 6 minutes.

Fifth Set

***DEL POTRO WINS U.S. OPEN: Del Potro converts his third break point of the game to win the match 3-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2. Down 15-40, Federer saved two match points (one on a 17-stroke ralley, the other with a service winner). But Federer soon double-faulted to set up another match point for del Potro, who won it when Federer's slice backhand went long.

DEL POTRO HOLDS, LEADS 3-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 5-2: A love hold for del Potro. We've just passed the four-hour mark. No matter what happens in Federer's next service game, del Potro will have the opportunity to serve for the championship.

FEDERER HOLDS; DEL POTRO LEADS 3-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 4-2: Federer immediately falls in a 0-15 hole on a double fault. He wins two quick points on forehands and two others when a pair of Del Potro returns land in the net.

DEL POTRO HOLDS, LEADS 3-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 4-1: Serving at 30-30, del Potro comes through with another powerful forehand winner. When a Federer return drifts wide, del Potro moves within two games of his first Grand Slam title. Del Potro continues to take something off his serve, content to get into the point and try to dictate from the baseline.

FEDERER HOLDS; DEL POTRO LEADS 3-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 3-1: Federer overcomes his ninth double fault to get on the board in the fifth.

DEL POTRO HOLDS, LEADS 3-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 3-0: Federer earns a break opportunity at 30-40, but the score moves to deuce when his backhand return floats long. From there, the Argentine wins two quick points -- on a forehand winner and a Federer unforced error -- to solidify his break.

DEL POTRO BREAKS, LEADS 3-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 2-0: More first-serve struggles from Federer lead to an early break from del Potro. At this point, Federer is only 80-of-161 on first serves.

DEL POTRO HOLDS, LEADS 3-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 1-0: We're in the first five-set final on the men's side since 1999. Del Potro looks fit and ready for the home stretch, starting with a stress-free hold.

Fourth Set

***DEL POTRO WINS FOURTH SET 7-6 (4); MATCH TIED: Controversy here. With del Potro serving at 4-2 in the tiebreaker someone in the crowd made an "out" call on a second serve. Federer pulled up and lost the point. He then objected to the chair umpire, who refused to take the point off the board but granted Federer a challenge. When the challenge showed the serve was indeed out, the umpire wiped the point off the board. Naturally, del Potro was furious, since Federer had made a stink about after-the-fact challenges earlier in the match. The resolution: first serve for del Potro. The Argentine won the point anyway to go up 5-2; Federer responded with a pair of service holds. Serving at 5-4, del Potro won two in a row to take the fourth set.

DEL POTRO HOLDS; FEDERER LEADS 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-6: We're on to a fourth-set tiebreaker after a quick hold.

FEDERER HOLDS, LEADS 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-5: Federer opens with a 125-mph ace and goes up 30-0 when a del Potro return kisses the net cord and skips all the way past the baseline. A big Federer serve handcuffs del Potro for 40-0. But the 20-year-old digs deep, wins three straight points and forces deuce. Yet another powerful forehand winner gives del Potro another break chance ... and Federer saves it with an extraordinary defensive retrieval. Federer's unforced error on the subsequent point gives Delpo a second break chance ... and a badly missed forehand returns the players to deuce. Another missed forehand by the Argentine and it's advantage Federer, who escapes with an ace down the middle.

DEL POTRO HOLDS; FEDERER LEADS 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 5-5: Serving at 15-all, del Potro misses badly on a forehand near the net to move Federer within two points of the championship. The Argentine follows with a quick point off a 128-mph serve and a 131-mph ace -- rare big serves from him in this set. He completes the hold on another brilliant forehand winner down the line that darts beyond Federer's reach.

FEDERER HOLDS, LEADS 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 5-4: Routine hold for Federer, who's four points from his sixth consecutive U.S. Open title. Can del Potro hold?

FEDERER BREAKS, LEADS 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 4-4: Del Potro seemed to be taking care of business in the service game, going ahead 30-0 to inch within six points from tying it up at two sets apiece. But Federer rattles off three straight points to earn a break opportunity -- and then gets back on serve when del Potro's forehand down the line catches the top of the net.

FEDERER HOLDS, LEADS 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 3-4: At 40-15, Federer secures the game with a cross-court winner ... or so he thinks. Del Potro (successfully) challenges the call right as the telecast is breaking for commercial and wins the next point to close it to 40-30 and put the pressure on Federer. But since he scarcely understands the concept of pressure, Fed secures the hold on the next point.

DEL POTRO HOLDS; FEDERER LEADS 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 2-4: What a brilliant rally to open the game, the longest of the match. Twenty-one strokes in all, ending with a desperate lunge from del Potro that sends the ball just over the net. Del Potro high-fives some kids in the front row, then gets back to the business of holding again.

DEL POTRO BREAKS; FEDERER LEADS 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 2-3: Yet another powerful forehand winner down Federer's backhand wing gives del Potro the 0-15 lead. Two more quick points get del Potro to triple break point. He only needs one, breaking Federer at love. Del Potro is now 3-of-8 on break points; Federer is 4-for-20.

DEL POTRO HOLDS; FEDERER LEADS 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 2-2: Almost an unlucky break for del Potro. Serving at 30-15, a shot by the Argentine appeared to sail long. The chair umpire discouraged del Potro from challenging the call, though the unofficial replay on the telecast showed the ball was in. Del Potro ended up saving a break point before going on to hold.

FEDERER HOLDS, LEADS 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 2-1: Three quick points and just when it looks like another love game for Federer, del Potro whips yet another forehand winner at breakneck speed to pull within 40-15. No matter. Federer closes the game on the next point.

DEL POTRO HOLDS; FEDERER LEADS 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 1-1: Serving at 0-15, Del Potro attempts one drop shot too many -- and an on-rushing Federer strikes an emphatic cross-court winner. At 15-40, del Potro saves consecutive break points to force deuce and goes on to take the game with a cross-court forehand winner. Nice recovery by del Potro to stay on serve.

FEDERER HOLDS, LEADS 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 1-0: Federer keeps serve but not without a fight from del Potro, who doesn't appear dispirited after that brutal ending to the third set.

Third Set

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Roger Federer couldn't hold a two-sets-to-one lead in the U.S. Open final.
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

***FEDERER BREAKS, WINS THIRD SET 6-4; HE LEADS 2-1 IN SETS: The spat with the umpire seems to have invigorated Federer at a very inopportune time for del Potro. Federer strikes winners on the first two points, but del Potro fights back to get to 30-30. Then disaster strikes: Back-to-back double faults -- the Argentine's first two of the set -- give Federer the break and the set. Del Potro spends the changeover with his head in his hands.

FEDERER HOLDS, LEADS 6-3, 6-7 (5), 5-4: Federer goes up 30-0, but Del Potro wins three straight points to earn another break chance. The Swiss answers with an emphatic first serve to force deuce and goes on to win the game. Del Potro waited nearly 10 seconds to challenge the last point and the chair umpire granted it. Federer, already not a fan of the challenge system, was not happy with the decision to allow such a delayed challenge; he was even caught dropping an expletive on the telecast when the umpire told him to be quiet.

FEDERER BREAKS; MATCH TIED 1-1 IN SETS, 4-4 IN THIRD SET: Del Potro gets careless in dropping the opening point but can do nothing on the second and third, as Federer goes up 0-40 on consecutive backhand winners. Del Potro digs deep to win the next two points -- the second on a match-long 17-stroke rally -- but is ultimately broken when his cross-court attempt sails long. Gutting reversal for del Potro, who'd won 22 of his previous 24 points on serve before this game.

DEL POTRO BREAKS, LEADS 3-6, 7-6 (5), 4-3: After Federer moves ahead 0-30, del Potro wins three straight points to earn his second break-point opportunity of the third set (and sixth of the match). They rally before Federer sends a forehand several feet past the baseline as del Potro goes up a break. The plot thickens.

DEL POTRO HOLDS; MATCH TIED 1-1 IN SETS, 3-3 IN THIRD SET: Another short and sweet service game from del Potro: four straight points. His first-serve percentage in the third set is nearly 70 percent.

FEDERER HOLDS, LEADS 6-3, 6-7 (5), 3-2: Another hold from Federer, who wins four of five points. But with del Potro appearing more and more confident on his service games, you start to get the sense that we haven't seen the last tiebreak of the day. And that means anything can happen, especially with a big server like del Potro.

DEL POTRO HOLDS; MATCH TIED 1-1 IN SETS, 2-2 IN THIRD SET: Classy hold from del Potro, who continues to control his service games with a big first serve and powerful forehand. After a 1-for-9 start, del Potro has raised his first-serve percentage to 58 percent.

FEDERER HOLDS, LEADS 6-3, 6-7 (5), 2-1: With Federer serving at 30-30, del Potro whips a passing shot to gain another break chance. The crowd starts buzzing. But Federer rattles off three quick points -- the last on a violent overhand smash -- to hold serve.

DEL POTRO HOLDS; MATCH TIED 1-1 IN SETS, 1-1 IN THIRD SET: Del Potro has managed to elevate his game over the past half hour, his forehand becoming a more and more reliable weapon. He matches Federer's clinical hold with a love game of his own.

FEDERER HOLDS, LEADS 6-3, 6-7 (5), 1-0: A very Federer-like response from the five-time defending champ, who wins four straight points -- including a pair of aces -- in holding to open the third set.

Second Set

***DEL POTRO WINS SECOND SET 7-6 (5); MATCH TIED: The players hold their respective service points until the seventh point of the best-of-13 tiebreak, when a Federer forehand sails wide. Del Potro holds both service points to go ahead 6-3 and secure triple set point. With Federer scrambling on the ensuing point, del Potro misses long on an overhead smash -- a golden opportunity squandered -- and loses the next point. Serving at 6-5 with another chance to take the set, del Potro hammers a gorgeous inside-out forehand winner that darts a foot beyond Federer's outstretched racket. Del Potro is back in it after losing the first set 6-3.

FEDERER HOLDS, LEADS 6-3, 6-6: Despite more first-serve struggles (he's at 43 percent overall), Federer holds to force a tiebreaker. Federer is 24-8 in tiebreaks this year; del Potro is 15-7.

DEL POTRO HOLDS; FEDERER LEADS 6-3, 5-6: Federer has a habit of breaking back after failing to hold serve, but del Potro refuses to play along. He storms to a 40-0 lead before getting unlucky on a net cord. Serving at 40-15, the Argentine hits a winner to move ahead in the set. The crowd, craving a long match, has gotten behind the 20-year-old underdog.

DEL POTRO BREAKS; FEDERER LEADS 6-3, 5-5: Del Potro goes up 30-40 on a thunderous passing shot that's called out but is overturned by the Hawk-Eye instant-replay system. (Federer begs the differ, motioning to the chair umpire and glaring at the spot where the ball landed.) On his fourth break point of the match, del Potro lines a forehand winner past Federer to pull even in the set.

DEL POTRO HOLDS; FEDERER LEADS 6-3, 5-4: An encouraging service game for del Potro: four straight points for the hold. But he'll need to break Federer after the changeover to avoid going two sets down.

FEDERER HOLDS, LEADS 6-3, 5-3: Trailing 40-30, del Potro forces deuce on a net approach -- the sort of aggressive play he'll need to come back. But a del Potro forehand into the net gives Federer another hold after a three-deuce game. Federer has only four aces against six double faults in nine service games, but he's held each time.

DEL POTRO HOLDS; FEDERER LEADS 6-3, 4-3: The Argentine wins the first three points with booming first serves, including a 133-mph offering, his fastest of the match. An unforced error and a double fault (just his third of the afternoon) close the margin to 40-30, but del Potro recovers to close with another ace.

FEDERER HOLDS, LEADS 6-3, 4-2: Del Potro opens the game with a passing shot. But Federer rattles off four straight points -- capped by an emphatic ace to del Potro's backhand side -- to hold again.

DEL POTRO HOLDS; FEDERER LEADS 6-3, 3-2: Del Potro is having to work for everything. He turns back two more break points and wins the game on Federer's backhand mishit. Federer has had 13 break points in del Potro's seven service games, converting two.

FEDERER HOLDS, LEADS 6-3, 3-1: Del Potro finally gets a look on Federer's serve, but can't take advantage of three break-point opportunities. Federer erases two at 15-40 with two big forehands. Then, serving at deuce, Federer appears to hit an ace. But del Potro appeals to the chair umpire that he was apparently distracted by a cup that swept onto the court. Forced to play the point again, Federer loses it on a forehand error. But he goes on to save the next break point, too, and win the game. He's still been broken only seven times in the tournament.

DEL POTRO HOLDS; FEDERER LEADS 6-3, 2-1: Federer is nothing if not relaxed: He executes a desperation behind-the-back shot that del Potro follows with an easy volley winner to clinch the game. Federer smiles as he walks to his chair for the changeover.

FEDERER HOLDS, LEADS 2-0: Federer consolidates the break with yet another simple hold. The only blip is his fourth double fault of the match. Federer finishes off the game with a terrific half volley that sets up a putaway volley. He's now 13-of-14 at the net.

FEDERER BREAKS, LEADS 6-3, 1-0: Del Potro will have to play from behind in the second set, too. He caps a sloppy service game with a double fault to give Federer a quick break.

First Set

***FEDERER HOLDS, WINS FIRST SET 6-3: After opening the game with a double fault, Federer wins four points in a row to close out the first set in 40 minutes. How good of a front-runner is Federer? He's 167-4 when winning the first set in Grand Slam matches. Del Potro hasn't looked nearly as sharp as he did in Sunday's demolition of Rafael Nadal in the semifinals.

DEL POTRO HOLDS; FEDERER LEADS 5-3: Del Potro climbs out of a 0-40 hole to stay in the set, reeling off five consecutive points.

FEDERER HOLDS, LEADS 5-2: A double fault and a backhand error from Federer give del Potro a 0-30 opening. But Federer wins the next four points, including two on forehand winners. Federer is serving at only 36 percent but has yet to face a break point.

DEL POTRO HOLDS; FEDERER LEADS 4-2: Del Potro double-faults at 30-30 but saves a break point when he wins a long baseline exchange. A 126-mph ace and a service winner earned him the game.

FEDERER HOLDS, LEADS 4-1: Del Potro gets to 30-30, but Federer responds with a service winner and an overhead winner. The latter makes Federer 6-of-6 in net approaches through five games -- an aggressive start for the top seed.

DEL POTRO HOLDS; FEDERER LEADS 3-1: Del Potro settles down for a straightforward hold, benefiting from a couple of service winners.

FEDERER HOLDS, LEADS 3-0: "He doesn't know what hit him yet," CBS' John McEnroe said of del Potro, who fails to challenge Federer's serve for the second straight game. Federer has won 16 of 24 points through three games, and he's playing a lot of balls to the center of the court, denying del Potro angles.

FEDERER BREAKS, LEADS 2-0: Federer cashes in his fifth break point of the game in spectacular fashion, hitting a cross-court winner on the dead run with del Potro at net. Not quite a between-the-legs masterpiece, but it nonetheless electrifies the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium. A shaky Del Potro, playing his first major final, converts only 4-of-14 first serves in the game.

FEDERER HOLDS, LEADS 1-0: The defending champion opens the final with an easy hold.

***

PRE-MATCH (4 p.m.): Federer is attempting to become the first player to win six consecutive Open crowns since Bill Tilden in the 1920s. The only hurdle between Federer and yet another historical milestone is del Potro, the 6-foot-6 Argentine who's been one of the hottest players on tour during the hard-court season.

The del Potro optimists have spent the past day stirring up the echoes of 2000, when another 20-year-old named Marat Safin thumped then-greatest-of-all-time apparent Pete Sampras in straight sets for a stunning U.S. Open title. Many believe del Potro has the power and physique to derail the Federer Express at a tournament where he's undefeated since 2003 -- a span of 40 matches.

Yes, Federer is 6-0 against the young Argentine, including three straight-set victories on hard courts. But the fast-rising del Potro is 17-1 since Wimbledon, and he pushed Federer to the limit in June in a thrilling five-set French Open semifinal.

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