SHANGHAI ― Sixth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro was sick with a fever when he eked out a win over Philipp Kohlschreiber in the second round at the Shanghai Rolex Masters, and still ill when he walked over into the quarterfinals after round-three opponent Tommy Haas bowed out with a back injury.
The world No. 5 shook it off and finally showed what he could do in his victory over Nicolas Almagro, 6-3, 6-3, which brought him to a semifinal face-off to beat the man he called “unbeatable”: world No. 1 Rafael Nadal.
But he did it ― in straight sets, no less ― handily defeating the second seed on Saturday with a combination of placing precise returns, surviving 20-plus-shot rallies and simply hitting hard every time to overpower the Spaniard, 6-2, 6-4, for his fourth match success in 12 head-to-heads. It was his first victory over Nadal since the 2009 U.S. Open semifinal, before he went on to win the title.
With this win, the 25-year-old became the fifth contender to qualify for the year-end ATP World Tour Finals in London, and was due to take on top-seeded Novak Djokovic ― who earlier in the day defeated seventh-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-2, 7-5 ― on Sunday in the Argentine’s fifth final appearance of the season. “Today I feel 100 percent physically. That’s what I need against these (top-ranked) players,” he said after the match. “I played so solid all the time, hitting so hard the ball. I saw Rafa playing very far (from) the baseline, which is good for my game, for my serve and confidence. That’s the way to beat this guy.”
By Elaine Ramirez
Korea Herald correspondent