Rafael Nadal reaching the final of this ATP Masters 1000 on hard courts after a seven-month layoff is a tough act to follow as far as headline-making is concerned. But Juan Martin del Potro managed it here in the semifinal of the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday night.
The tall, seemingly languid Argentine fought back superbly from down 3-0 in the final set to inflict the first defeat of the year on world No. 1 Novak Djokovic 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Having beaten Andy Murray the day before, this meant that del Potro had taken out both Australian Open finalists back to back. Given the heat and standard of opposition, this was a Herculean effort on the part of a talented player who has struggled to regain his self-confidence following the wrist surgery he underwent shortly after winning the US Open in 2009.
But nothing daunted this quietly spoken 24-year-old from Tandil, a city to the south of Buenos Aires that turned out years ago en masse to greet him after he had beaten Roger Federer to win ...