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September 16, 2009

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Del Potro ends Federer's US reign

ARGENTINA'S Juan Martin del Potro obliterated Roger Federer's 40-match winning streak at the US Open to become the newest member of the grand slam champions' club on Monday.

Standing 1.98 meters tall, the Argentine left Federer in his shadow as he won 3-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2 to capture his first grand slam crown.

In an electrifying four-hour tussle featuring countless Federer errors, Hawk-Eye disputes, umpire clashes and high-fives with fans, it was del Potro's red-hot forehand that ultimately shone through and denied the Swiss, bidding for his 16th grand slam crown and a modern-era record sixth successive US Open title.

After being gifted his third match point with a double fault, an incredulous del Potro kept his eye on the ball as he watched a Federer backhand float long to seal victory.

He dropped his racket and collapsed on to his back, with legs splayed and his hands covering his face, an X-shaped emblem of triumph. His body still shaking with emotion, del Potro got back on to his feet as the tears started to flow freely.

"I had two dreams this week - one was to win the US Open and the other one is to be like Roger," the 20-year-old, who earned US$1.85 million for his golden run, told the crowd.

Turning to his victim, the sixth seed added: "One is done, but I need to improve a lot to be like you. You fought until the final point. You are a great champion. This will be in my mind forever."

The victory at a floodlit Arthur Ashe Stadium allowed del Potro to become the first South American man to triumph in New York since compatriot Guillermo Vilas in 1977. But unlike on that day 32 years ago, Del Potro was not mobbed on court by dozens of fans wanting to get close to a champion.

Cold water

Instead, Del Potro poured cold water all over his head to ensure he was not dreaming.

The Argentine also became the first man to beat Spaniard Rafael Nadal, whom he beat for the loss of just six games, and Federer back-to-back in a grand slam arena.

Federer was philosophical in defeat. "I was two points from the match today. That's the way it goes sometimes," he said. "But I've had an unbelievable run (this year). Being in all major finals and winning two of those, I'm losing the other two in five sets."

On court, though, Federer can be a very greedy man.

He romped through the opening set and stood two points from taking a two-set lead at 5-4 but the top seed watched in horror as a Hawk-Eye overrule handed del Potro break point.

An irritated Federer dropped his serve as the set swung del Potro's way and he roared through the tiebreak 7-5. It turned out to be the first of many Hawk-Eye decisions to irk the Swiss and after del Potro belatedly challenged a call at the end of the ninth game in the third set, Federer flipped.

"Come on, you are allowed two seconds to challenge, the guy takes 10," Federer yelled at umpire Jake Garner as he walked to his chair. "Are there any rules? That was way too long." Told by Garner to be quiet, the usually unflappable Federer swore as he snapped: "Don't tell me to be quiet. I'll talk when I want to talk. I don't give a shit what he says."


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