NEW YORK Juan Martin del Potro plowed his way into the U.S. Open final, handing six-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal one of the worst losses of his career with a scintillating display of groundstroke power.
Nadal, the third seed who was pursuing his first U.S. Open title and the career Grand Slam, was uncharacteristically outclassed from the baseline and went down 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 to the 20-year-old Argentinian.
“I’m very, very happy,” the sixth-seeded del Potro said. “This is my favorite tournament and I can’t believe this moment.”
Del Potro brushed off every attempt by Nadal to get back in the match, saving five break points and hitting 33 winners compared to 19 for Nadal. The 6-foot-6 del Potro appeared to be unbothered by the high bounce and heavy topspin from Nadal’s groundstrokes, repeatedly passing the Spaniard with his powerful inside-out forehand.
He served six aces and won 79 percent of points off his first serve.
On Monday, del Potro will go for his first Grand Slam title against the winner of Saturday afternoon’s match between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
“I will fight until the final point for you, for everyone … I think this is the best moment of my life,” said del Potro, who had never made it past a semifinal of a major before Sunday.
Del Potro came in playing well, beating Nadal to reach the finals of the Masters 1000 event in Montreal and beating Andy Roddick to win the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington.
Meanwhile, Nadal entered the tournament facing questions about his health, as he skipped Wimbledon due to knee problems and took off several weeks to rest. While his knees did not appear to be a problem during the last two weeks, he was not in top shape and was especially bothered by an abdominal strain.
Sunday’s loss ensures Nadal will not regain the number one ranking from Federer.