Tennis: Roger Federer's four-hour struggle against Martin del Potro sees him into men's singles final at Wimbledon

 

Roger Federer’s dream of adding a singles Olympic gold medal to his extraordinary list of achievements is still alive but the Wimbledon champion had to win a record-breaking epic against Juan Martin del Potro at Wimbledon to book his place in Saturday's final.

Federer, who will meet the winner of today's later semi-final between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic in the gold medal match, beat Del Potro 3-6, 7-6, 19-17 after four hours and 26 minutes. It was the longest match in Olympic history and the longest men’s three-set match in the Open era.

The match had echoes of Federer’s 2009 Wimbledon final against Andy Roddick, which he won 16-14 in the final set – the previous longest set he had played - after four hours and 16 minutes. A key difference, however, was that this time it was Federer who kept having to serve to stay in the match in the decider. He did so 13 times before Del Potro finally crumbled.

Just four weeks after winning his seventh Wimbledon title and reclaiming the world No 1 ranking, Federer is now just one victory away from making up for his past Olympic disappointments. Although he won a gold medal in the doubles with Stanislas Wawrinka four years ago, he suffered surprising defeats in all three of his previous Olympic appearances in singles, to Arnaud Di Pasquale, Tomas Berdych and James Blake.

“It's a big moment in my life and a big moment for Switzerland because we don't have a medal yet,” Federer said afterwards. “I hope that also inspires other Swiss athletes for the Olympics now.”

Federer, who admitted having been tense and nervous, said the occasion had felt as big as a Grand Slam final. “I definitely got a sense that this was something special we were both going through,” he said. “The deeper we went into the match, the more I thought: ‘Wow, this is so cool to be part of a match like this’.”

The victory provided a measure of revenge following Federer’s defeat by Del Potro in the 2009 US Open final. The 23-year-old Argentinian, who was in tears afterwards, has featured in a number of marathons against the Swiss and was two sets up against him at this year’s French Open until a knee injury scuppered his chances. He has worked hard to reclaim his place in the world’s top 10 after being out of the game for a year with a wrist problem, but in recent times he has repeatedly fallen agonisingly short against the top men.

While Federer’s grass-court prowess has never been in doubt, Del Potro has often struggled on the surface. On this occasion, however, both men struck the ball with great consistency from the baseline and served superbly.

In the first two sets there was only one break of serve, by Del Potro in the eighth game. Federer, who won the second set tie-break 7-5, kept making inroads into Del Potro’s service games in the decider, but the world No 9 performed magnificently under pressure, none more so than at 8-8 and 0-30 down, when he hit a wonderful diving volley at full stretch to win the next point and went on to hold serve.

Federer finally broke to lead 10-9 but, astonishingly, was broken to love in the following game when he served for the match. At 14-14 Del Potro held serve from 0-40 down, but at 17-17 Federer finally broke again. On his first match point in the following game the world No 1 missed an easy volley, but on the second Del Potro netted a backhand.

Federer kissed the Swiss flag on his shirt and gave a warm embrace to his opponent. “I felt for him in a big way because I've been there, as well,” Federer said. “I know how much this meant for him.  I told him he should be very proud.  I thought he played such a great match.”

Del Potro still has the chance to win a bronze medal tomorrow against the loser of last night’s second semi-final, but he admitted:  “To lose this way hurts a lot. It’s very hard to talk about it right now.”

Serena Williams, the Wimbledon champion, will face Maria Sharapova in this afternoon’s women’s final.  Williams, who has been in outstanding form all week, crushed Victoria Azarenka, the world No 1, 6-1, 6-2. Sharapova, who has lost to Williams seven times in a row, beat her fellow Russian, Maria Kirilenko, 6-2, 6-3.

 

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker