INDIAN WELLS (AFP) – The stars are finally starting to align for Juan Martin Del Potro who will be seeking his third straight ATP title at the Miami Masters this week.
The south Florida showcase got an additional boost on Sunday when Del Potro saved three championship points to hand world number one Roger Federer his first loss of 2018 in a thrilling 6-4, 6-7 (8/10), 7-6 (7/2) victory at the Indian Wells Masters.
With the win, combined with injuries to Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, it is now looking like Del Potro is the biggest threat to Federer’s rule over the ATP Tour.
“It’s time to celebrate this, because I made the big effort to win it,” Del Potro said. “And then be ready for Miami. It is one of my favourite tournaments on tour.
“Many Latino-American people are expecting my game there. That make me feel special. I would like to keep surprising myself and see how far I can go.”
Del Potro, 29, captured his second ATP title in a row and recorded his biggest victory since his comeback from multiple wrist surgeries.
Federer was 17-0 on the season heading into the Indian Wells final which was a personal best for him.
Del Potro said the first order of business when he gets to south Florida is to do some celebrating with his team.
“I cannot tell you,” he joked of his party plans. “It will be Miami, maybe tomorrow, but that’s enough.”
Del Potro also won the title earlier this month in Acapulco, where he beat three top eight players in a row to clinch his 21st singles crown.
He is back in the top ten rankings this season for the first time since 2014. He dropped to No. 1,045 before beginning his comeback from the left wrist surgeries in 2016.
On Monday, Del Potro moved up to No. 6 in the rankings.
“I don’t care about the numbers. I just want to keep winning titles,” he said.
Del Potro said something changed for him in his career when he upset then world number one Djokovic in the first round of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“After the Djokovic match, my tennis life changed,” he said. “I feel happy again with my tennis life.
“I won the Davis Cup and I say, ‘Okay, I don’t have any more pressure to play tennis because I won everything that I what.’”
But there was still one thing missing on his resume and that was a Masters 1000 title which he earned by beating Federer.
“I have everything that I want, and I want to keep improving my game to see what can I do,” he said.
Federer goes to Miami licking his wounds after losing his fourth of six career finals to Del Potro. Overall he holds a commanding 18-7 lead but in finals it’s a different story, including the 2009 US Open which Del Potro won 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2.
“Should I have won the US Open final I don’t know,” Federer said. “I could have. Should have. I didn’t. Same today.
“I am not sure why the final record is what it is. Most of them have gone the distance. It’s been tough against him.”
Federer said he spent too much time second guessing himself during Sunday’s match.
“I let an opportunity like this go by. Having him hit something past me, that’s very uncomfortable for him, and you pick the wrong side and you are like ‘Why am I picking the wrong side?’ Is it him or me? You just don’t know.
“Next thing you are shaking hands. Okay, too good. You move on.”
For Federer that means to Miami as well, where he is the top seed. He said Sunday he won’t decide whether to play in the French Open until after he plays Miami.