Roger Federer was pushed to the brink by Juan Martin del Potro before finally winning 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 19-17 and advancing to his first ever Olympic singles gold medal match.
Remember that longest match in Olympic history that just happened on Tuesday between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Milos Raonic? Well this one was longer. It wasn’t more games, but it took more time, four hours and 25 minutes to be precise. Four hours and 25 minutes of Kobe Bryant clapping.
Federer didn’t look like himself for much of the first two sets, making all sorts of uncharacteristic unforced errors, particularly in the second set where he committed 17; comparatively he had just 12 unforced errors in his entire quarterfinal match against John Isner. But his serve kept him in the game, getting big aces at the most important times (he finished with 24 aces for the match). Federer was not able break del Potro all match until late in the match, going 0-7 on break point opportunities before finally getting a break to go up 10-9 in the third.
In the final set both men were on their game early, breezing through their service games until late when Federer started to put on the pressure. Once the match reached 6-6 you could see the service games get easier for Fed and tougher for del Potro. Ultimately Federer got his first break of the match to go up 10-9, but then after being so dominant on his serve for the entire set he gave up the break and the momentum.
After tying it back up del Potro started rolling through his service games and the momentum shifted back and forth with each looking the stronger man from time to time. Neither player got another break or even a break point until Federer had triple break point at 14-14. But of course, Del Potro fought off all three to win the game and the match returned to the back-and-forth rhythm it established. Once again at 17-17 Federer got another triple break point, this time he capitalized and finally closed out del Potro 19-17, but not before making things exciting by letting the final game get to deuce.
Federer will play the winner of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for the gold medal on Sunday. Del Potro will play the loser of that match for bronze.
Meanwhile on the women’s side Maria Sharapova topped countrywoman Maria Kirilenko 6-2, 6-3 to advance to the gold medal match. She will face the winner of Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka of Belarus.