World number one Roger Federer had just lost his first Grand Slam final to someone other than second-ranked Rafael Nadal when he pondered the future of his conqueror, Juan Martin del Potro.
“Rafa, we’ve had some epic great ones over the years,” Federer said. “Who knows? Maybe Del Potro is going to join that thing as well.”
That’s the next goal for the 1.98m Argentine man-mountain after his stunning 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 victory Monday over the Swiss superstar, snapping Federer’s five-year US Open title run in his Grand Slam debut.
“I have many things to improve to be better,” Del Potro said. “I would like to be top 4, top 3 or top 1 in the future. But I have to play like today many, many weeks in the year. I don’t have the shape to do that but maybe if I’m still working and still going in the same way, maybe in the future I can.”
Del Potro, who turns 21 next week, became the first South American to win a US Open since compatriot Guillermo Vilas in 1977 and the first non-European player to win a major since countryman Gaston Gaudio won the 2004 French Open.
Gaudio was a one-hit wonder who has never since matched his sparkling fortnight on the red clay at Roland Garros, but Del Potro has the tools to fare better with his massive size, formidable forehand and effective speed.
And he beat the world’s two top players, Nadal and Federer, in his final two matches to win the title.
“I just want to live this moment,” Del Potro said. “I have new opportunities in the other Grand Slams to win. If I here beat Nadal, Federer and many good players, maybe I can do it one more time.
“But of course it will be difficult because I was so close to losing.”
Del Potro amazed even himself by rallying from a two sets to one down to beat the player seen by most as the greatest in tennis history after a all-time record 15 Slam titles.
“Maybe next week I will be believing in this, but now I don’t understand nothing,” Del Potro said.
“I think it’s the best final ever in my life. If I beat Roger in three sets straight that’s better, but it’s impossible.”
The Slam final debutante lost sleep and appetite to the intense pressure of his challenge but kept his composure in tie-breakers and dominated the last set.
“The beginning of the match I was so nervous,” Del Potro said. “I can’t sleep last night. I don’t take breakfast. That’s part of the final.”
That hunger might be why the only thing Del Potro said he might buy with his 1.85 million dollars in US Open winnings is a New York specialty - “cheesecake for my birthday.”
Getting in shape to win more Slams might have to wait a couple more weeks.