Del Potro saves match points in victory over Federer to win first Masters 1000 title

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At last: Juan Martin del Potro is a Masters 1000 champion.

Juan Martin del Potro fought off a gritty Roger Federer and saved three match points to clinch the first Masters 1000 title of his career on Sunday and become the first Argentine to win Indian Wells.

It was Del Potro’s 11th consecutive match win and second title in a row, having won the Acapulco title two weeks ago.

The sixth-seeded Del Potro was competing in his first Masters 1000 final since 2013 and his third title match of the season.

“Well, I’m still shaking. I think this is the worst part for me. First of all I want to congratulate Roger on a great week, great success in this start of the year, you’re making history and I’m so happy to be just behind you seeing what you do, it’s amazing for our sport and for the life,” said Del Potro in the trophy ceremony.

“I cannot believe I’m here with this trophy, beating Roger after a great battle. I was really angry after the second set, but well I was lucky in the last tiebreak I played well and finally I got the trophy.

“Thank you to my team, thank you for supporting me, to stay with me in the good moments and the bad moments. You’re very special, I share this trophy with you.”

Addressing the crowd he added: “Thank you very much for the respect in this final, you were an unbelievable atmosphere. Thanks for giving me so much love to never give up after all my injuries.”

He took his tally to 22 career trophies and became just the second man outside of Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to win Indian Wells in the past 15 years.

The 29-year-old denied Federer a sixth trophy in the California desert and 98th career title.

Prior to this fortnight, Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal had won 13 of the past 14 Indian Wells title, dating back to 2004, with the only exception being Federer’s coach, Ivan Ljubicic, triumphing in 2010.

Del Potro entered the contest trailing Federer 6-18 in career meetings but with a 3-2 advantage over the Swiss in finals.

Federer saved a match point in the second set and served for the title in the decider but Del Potro pegged him back to triumph in the end.

The Argentine drew first blood, breaking at love for a 3-2 lead and he secured the opening set in 34 minutes by holding at love.

Federer, contesting his eighth Indian Wells final, faced two break points at the start of the second set but he saved both to hold for 1-0.

They stayed neck and neck until they went to a tiebreak, with Del Potro needing to save two set points in game 10.

An inside-out forehand winner gave Federer a minibreak for 4-3 and he got his hands on three set points moments later. Del Potro saved the first two, on his own serve. Federer thought he took the set with a service winner on his third chance and started celebrating but Del Potro challenged and the serve was out. Federer then double-faulted and they were back on serve at 6-6 in the breaker.

Federer was getting more and more flustered and argued with the umpire during the change of ends then aced to get a fourth set point. Del Potro saved that too, with a good serve.

Another good serve and Del Potro got himself a match point. The Argentine netted a forehand and it was 8-8. A long forehand from the No. 6 seed gave Federer a fifth set point. This time, some incredible defence from Federer followed by a long volley from Del Potro sealed the set for the Swiss to force a decider.

A leaping backhand smash gave Federer a break point in the ninth game of the third set. But a strong serve-forehand combo helped Del Potro out of trouble. Still Federer found a way to break and put himself in the position to serve for the title.

The Swiss aced to get two match points but Del Potro saved both and created a break point opportunity. Federer hit Del Potro with a shot up at the net to save it.

The world No. 1 then got a third match point but his drop shot was chased down by a sprinting Del Potro who found the passing shot he needed to save it.

A Federer shank gave Del Potro another opportunity to break and this time the big-hitting Argentine slammed a crosscourt forehand winner to draw level at 5-5.

Both players held serve and the title showdown all came down to a final-set tiebreak.

Del Potro raced to a 5-0 lead in the breaker and got match points at 6-1. The first one slipped away on a long error from the No. 6 seed but he converted on the next point to wrap up a memorable victory.

“I’m really happy to be here, except the losing part, that’s tough, but I’m so happy to be back in the finals here at Indian Wells. Had a great week on and off the court,” said Federer after his loss.

“Most importantly, Juan Martin, well played today. There wasn’t much between us but you deserve it, well done.”

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Naomi Osaka claims her maiden WTA title with victory over Daria Kasatkina in Indian Wells

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First title is the sweetest: Naomi Osaka.

Naomi Osaka clinched the first title of her career by defeating fellow 20-year-old Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-2 in the Indian Wells final on Sunday, becoming the first Japanese woman to lift the trophy in the California desert.

Osaka is the youngest Indian Wells champion since Ana Ivanovic in 2008 and will rise to a career-high ranking of 22 on Monday.

She is the fourth unseeded finalist in the tournament’s history and the first unseeded champion since Kim Clijsters in 2005.

Her victory over Kasatkina was her sixth against a top-20 player in 2018 and caps a tremendous fortnight for Osaka, who also upset Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep en route to the title.

Kasatkina, who will be ranked a career-high No. 11 on Monday, was contesting a second consecutive final, having finished as runner-up in Dubai last month. The Russian fell behind to a 1-3 win-loss record in career finals following her loss on Sunday.

Kasatkina came within two points of losing her semi-final against Venus Williams on Friday, but recovered to post a fifth top-10 victory of the season.

Osaka was playing her first final in 18 months, with her sole other appearance in a title match coming in the Tokyo Pan Pacific Open in 2016.

It was the first time both Indian Wells finalists are aged under 21 since Serena beat Clijsters in 2001.

Osaka began to introduce herself during the trophy ceremony before realising everyone in the stadium already knew who she was.

“Hi I’m Naomi, okay never mind,” she said with a laugh.

“I would like to thank Dasha for being super nice and a really cool person. I would like thank Dasha’s team because they’re super nice too. Congrats.

“This is probably going to be the worst tennis speech of all time,” she nervously added.

Osaka had a nervy start, hitting unforced errors on her first three points on serve to face triple break point. Kasatkina missed on the first two but another Osaka error handed the break over to the Russian.

A cleverly-angled crosscourt forehand from Osaka saw her gain two break points in the next game and the Japanese broke on her second opportunity to draw level.

Osaka broke for a 5-3 lead and got her hands on triple set point the next game. A big forehand return from Kasatkina saw her save the first but a backhand winner from Osaka, her sixth of the match thus far, gave her the opening set.

Kasatkina hit just three winners and 11 unforced errors in that set. She looked deflated compared to her other inspired performances throughout the fortnight against the likes of Venus, Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki and Sloane Stephens.

The No. 20 seed was broken in the first game of the second and Osaka went up a double-break to open up a 5-1 lead.

Osaka got her first match points two games later and snatched the title with her 17th winner of the contest.

“First of all congrats to Naomi and to all your team, you are doing a great job guys, congrats. It’s a shame you didn’t show me your tweener today,” Kasatkina said during the trophy ceremony, referring to the video in which she attempted to teach Osaka the ‘tweener’ shot.

“Of course thanks to my team. My coach Philippe, my brother Alex, my fitness coach isn’t here but still I love him so much. Thanks to my family and all my close friends, thank you so much guys, thanks for all the support.

“The last thing I want to tell you, never give up, believe in your dreams, just keep going. Dream and do it.”

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Roger Federer looking forward to another 'arm wrestle' with Juan Martin del Potro in Indian Wells final

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INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIARoger Federer will face Juan Martin del Potro for a 25th time in their professional careers in the Indian Wells final on Sunday – a match-up the Swiss describes as an “arm wrestle”.

Federer, the defending champion in Palm Springs seeking a sixth Indian Wells crown, has a long history with Del Potro and leads the tall Argentine 18-6 head-to-head.

But Del Potro has always played him tough and has pulled off the upset over Federer on some of the biggest stages in the sport including a US Open final victory in 2009 for his sole Grand Slam triumph, and more recently a quarter-finals success over the Swiss, also at the US Open, last year.

Before the tournament, Del Potro had told reporters how much he values his rivarly with Federer and that, “if I had to take one match or one opponent to play in a final I would take Roger for sure.”

“Is that a good thing?” asked Federer with a smile when told what Del Potro had said about him.

“I think we have an interesting match-up,” added the 36-year-old Federer.

“We both know what the other is trying to do, and we try to stop the other person from doing it. But it’s hard when me or him is in full flight. It’s basically an arm wrestle the whole time, and I think we enjoy that.

“We know each other well. I think we respect each other in a big way. We’re both happy for one another, I think, when we do well, generally happy.

“So it’s nice to see him back in the top 10 and making big strides now, and I think he’s going to have a great season. I’m very happy for him.”

Del Potro reached his second career Indian Wells final on Saturday with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Milos Raonic. Back in the top-10 and seeded No. 6 in the California desert, Del Potro is on a 10-match winning streak, having won the title in Acapulco earlier this month, and has notched a 400th career victory to join Guillermo Vilas as the only Argentines in the 400 wins club.

The 29-year-old from Tandil is seeking a first Masters 1000 crown. He was the runner-up here in 2013.

Federer is on a winning streak himself and has started a season with a clean 17-0 record for the first time in his two-decade-long career.

“Took a while. Took a while to get the record,” Federer, who came back from a set and a break down to defeat Coric on Saturday, said with a grin.

“But, no, I’m happy. Look, especially also with the match, it was just a fighting match rather than, like — it didn’t come easy, so I had to go get it. Also got a little bit lucky, of course, throughout the match.

“I hung tough and put a lot of effort into it to get the record, if you like. I mean, you go from one to the next. Clearly, the focus has to be the finals right now and not enjoying the record.

“But it’s nice to get off to a good start this year, and I hope I can play well again tomorrow.”

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