Djokovic downs Del Potro in epic late night encounter

Novak Djokovic saved two match points on his way to a thrilling three-set victory over Juan Martin del Potro in the quarter-finals at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

The two players went toe to toe for over three hours before the Serbian prevailed 4-6 7-6(6) 6-4 in a pulsating encounter which finished at 1.05am.

It was the Argentine who came out on top in a hotly contested first set, securing the only break of serve in the seventh game when Djokovic sent a backhand wide. Del Potro was at his vintage best, his trademark forehand was firing and his defence was impenetrable. He saved six break points in the opener – including three at 5-4 – before sealing the set with a backhand down the line.

Del Potro continued to apply the pressure in set two but it was Djokovic who dug deep and found a way to get the break. Leading at 5-2 it looked as if the set was over but a poor service game from the world No. 1 allowed Del Potro back into the set and a tiebreak ensued. Once again Djokovic found himself on the back foot but he got lucky on Del Potro’s first match point when the world No. 9 pulled a forehand wide. He saved the second match point with a point of genius – a perfectly timed drop shot mixing up the pattern of play and keeping him in the match.

There was little to separate the two players in the third set either. A single break of serve in game five was enough to give Djokovic the edge and although Del Potro remained in close contact, breathing down his neck until the very end, he couldn’t recover the deficit. An ace on the Serbian’s second match point sealing victory and sending him into the semi-finals at the Foro Italico for the sixth straight year.

“He was playing really good. I tried my best obviously all the way till the end. I lost probably the positioning of the court over him. Towards the end of the first he just started hitting the ball really well from both corners. Also backhand side, backhand down the line. He was playing really well. Gave me a lot of trouble,” said Djokovic.

“But I never lost faith I could come back to the match. One break of serve, mini break in the tiebreak when he was 6-4, more or less open forehand that he was making the entire match, that’s all it took for me to come back. Missed a couple crucial points in the tiebreak. Also breakpoint third set, quite easy forehand. That’s what happens. That’s sport. I’m just really pleased to overcome.”

Another Argentine, Diego Schwartzman, awaits Djokovic in the semi-finals later on Saturday.