London - Roger Federer fought through the
longest three-set singles match in the Open era Friday when he beat
Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 19-17 to reach the
Wimbledon champion Federer was on the brink of a
shock defeat on Centre Court after dropping the first set, but the world
number one finally subdued del Potro after a marathon four hours and 26
The match, 23 minutes longer than Rafael Nadal and Novak
Djokovic's Madrid semi-final in 2009, comes after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
took 66 games to beat Milos Raonic in the second round -- the most seen
in an Olympic three-setter.
The great escape means Federer, 30, is
guaranteed at least a silver medal. In Sunday's final, he will face
world number two Novak Djokovic or Britain's Andy Murray, who was beaten
by Federer in last month's Wimbledon final.
After a relatively
barren two years by his standards, Federer is suddenly enjoying another
of his dominant periods and this hard-fought victory showed his hunger
for success remains as strong as ever.
Less than a month ago,
Federer, a doubles gold-medallist with Stanislas Wawrinka in Beijing
four years ago, was crowned Wimbledon champion for a record-equalling
Now he is just one win away from completing the 'golden slam' of titles in all four majors and the Olympic singles gold.
Potro's 2009 US Open final win over Federer was one of just two
victories in 14 meetings with the Swiss, who came from two sets down to
beat the 23-year-old in this year's French Open quarter-finals.
the big Argentine came out fighting, unleashing some hefty serves and
punishing groundstrokes to keep Federer from establishing control.
saving a break point in the third game, del Potro made Federer look
increasingly uncomfortable and he secured the opening break for a
decisive 5-3 lead when the Swiss was rushed into netting a backhand.
was having to scramble just to hold his serve and he produced a pair of
crucial aces to save two break points at 4-4 in the second set.
needed a tie-break to decide the set and Federer finally began to
dictate the tempo. He raced into a 4-1 lead and kept his nerve to induce
a series of mistakes from del Potro that levelled the match.
nerve-wracking final set saw five break chances wasted, two for del
Potro and three for Federer, before the Swiss had a chance to serve for
the match after breaking at 9-9.
Yet even then he couldn't finish off del Potro, as incredibly the Argentine broke to love.
drama continued as Federer squandered three more break points at 14-14
before he finally delivered the knockout blow with a break to lead
Federer's supreme fitness had kept him going and he wasn't
going to waste this chance, at last ending an all-time classic when del
Potro netted on the second match point.