Del Potro Triumphs In Indian Wells

Argentine beats Roger Federer in three sets to claim first Masters title

Juan Martin del Potro at Indian Wells in 2017
Juan Martin del Potro is now just two places off his career high ranking of no.4 | Beth Wilson

By Stephen Higgins | 19 March 2018

In the fourth Masters 1000 final of his career, Juan Martin del Potro finally ended up the victor in Indian Wells on Sunday. The Argentine defeated defending champion and world no.1 Roger Federer 6-4 6-7 7-6 (2) in two hours and 35 minutes.

Del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion, had previously been to three finals at this level without tasting success. He was runner-up at the Canadian Open (2009), Indian Wells (2013) and Shanghai (2013) to Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic respectively.

Despite his vast experience of 46 Masters 1000 level finals, it was Federer who struggled to settle in the first set.

The Swiss’ forehand was unusually loose and leaked eight unforced errors throughout the opener. Meanwhile, Del Potro’s monstrous forehand was rock solid and destructive as ever. The 29-year-old broke in the sixth game and retained that advantage to close the set out 6-4.

Federer’s level oscillated in a feisty second set. The five-time champion was disgruntled with his own performance while Del Potro felt aggrieved at vocal onlookers who disrupted his service motion. Umpire Fergus Murphy received an earful from both competitors as the match progressed.

The tense second set went to a tie-break. Del Potro earned a championship point at 8-7 on Federer’s serve but netted a short inside-out forehand. The defending champion recovered and took his seventh set point after Del Potro’s volley overshot the baseline.

In the changeover, the 20-time major winner took a rare toilet break as the Argentine simmered on his seat.

The final set was dramatic and brimmed with wonderful shotmaking and thunderous forehands from both men. Service games were held until the ninth game when Federer broke.

Serving for the championship, the 36-year-old shocked all who watched when he lost the game from 40-15 up. Like the second set, a tie-break would settle the third but this time the plot favoured the challenger.

Federer’s hopes of a record sixth title evaporated rapidly as the Argentine raced to a 5-0 lead. Stubborn play from Del Potro, coupled with Federer’s failure to land a first serve, discarded hopes of a Swiss victory. Del Potro eventually clinched the tie-break 7-2 after a Federer forehand missed the baseline.

The Argentine claimed his first Masters 1000 trophy, second title of the season (Acapulco) and a cheque worth $1.3 million. He will move to no.6 in the ATP rankings. The result means that Federer’s winning streak is halted at 17 as the tour moves on to Miami.

In the women’s final, 20-year-old Naomi Osaka won the first title of her fledgling career with a straight sets triumph over Daria Kasatkina. Osaka powered her way to a 6-3 6-2 win thanks to the kind of blistering forehands that had buoyed her throughout the week.

The Japanese had an extraordinary run to the showpiece with victories over Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Karolina Pliskova and world no.1 Simona Halep. Kasatkina also made a grand impression with the scalps of Sloane Stephens, Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams.