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Juan Martin del Potro scored a 6-4, 6-7 (8), 7-6 (2) victory Sunday over Roger Federer to win the 2018 BNP Paribas Open championship at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in California.
It’s the second straight tournament triumph for Del Potro, who defeated Kevin Anderson in the Mexican Open final two weeks ago. He now owns 22 career ATP Tour singles titles.
Meanwhile, it’s the first loss of the season for Federer after a 17-match winning streak that included titles in the Australian Open, the year’s first major, and the Rotterdam Open.
Del Potro took control of the opening set with a break in the 20-time major champion’s third service game.
Perhaps more impressive was the way he closed out the set, though. After consolidating the break in a tense deuce game, he held at love in each of his final two service games.
Christopher Clarey of the New York Times commented on the challenge Federer was facing:
Christopher Clarey @christophclarey
Del Potro breaks Federer at love to go up 3-2 in the opening set. Going to be a real challenge for Federer today with the quick turnaround after that mental and physical challenge versus Coric. Del Potro the fresher man.
The 36-year-old Swiss sensation nearly gave away the second set before ultimately winning it.
He failed to convert two set points at 5-4 and then squandered four set points in the tiebreak before getting forced to defend a match point for Del Potro. He escaped the danger by holding serve and eventually managed to level the match with a 10-8 win in the breaker.
Tennis TV provided a look at Federer’s reaction after forcing a deciding set:
Tennis TV @TennisTV
MASSIVE performance from @rogerfederer to take the second set 7-6(8)! Join us for the decider: https://t.co/3vvQfoJmv9 #BNPPO18 https://t.co/z9JyQCXYY0
Federer had an opportunity to close out the clash on serve a 5-4 after a break. He earned three match points in the game, including two straight at 40-15, but Del Potro kept fighting back and delivered a massive forehand on his second break chance to level the set again.
After the finalists traded holds, it was all Delpo in the tiebreak.
The 29-year-old Argentine raced out to a 5-0 lead and cruised to the finish line at 7-2. It was an anticlimactic finish to an otherwise tremendous championship battle.
He discussed his emotions on ESPN after securing his first Masters title (via the BNP Paribas Open):
BNP Paribas Open @BNPPARIBASOPEN
“I’m still shaking I’m so nervous,” del Potro says on ESPN. “It was tough for me to keep fighting (after losing MP in the second). It’s difficult to describe with words. It’s like a dream” #BNPPO18 https://t.co/T8rJD0OLl4
Next up on the ATP Tour is the 2018 Miami Open, which kicks off Monday with qualifying.
Based on the way Federer and Del Potro have played, including throughout Sunday’s highly competitive and entertaining final, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them face off for another title in two weeks should they land on opposite sides of the draw.