An evening on the Campo Centrale court at the Foro Italico can usually go on for some time. Wrap up and maybe bring a blanket and in return you get world class tennis.
Year on year you witness some of the best match-ups on the clay and a meeting between Djokovic and Del Potro from last year will go down as one of the best…
It was just gone 10pm at night in Rome when these two got onto court and it didn’t disappoint.
Up for grabs was a place in the semi-finals against Diego Schwartzman and it was the Argentine’s fellow countryman who got off to a good start.
Having saved break point following a precise lob from the world number one Del Potro began to dictate with the wingspan of his Thor like forehand. The forehand is like a dream but it was a sweet two handed backhand pushed up the line from the Argentine that sealed the first set 6-4.
It didn’t take long for the party tricks to come out. Clay court tennis at it’s best oozes skill and the perfect touch and there just aren’t many better than Novak Djokovic at pulling out that drop shot from the back of the court.
The first break of a crucial second set went to Novak to lead 4-2. A lucky skid off the line from a deep Djokovic backhand gifted the point and he found himself ahead.
The lead wouldn’t last for long as Del Potro who was incredibly just playing his seventh match of the year following four months out was playing at an incredibly high level.
Coming into this match Juan had only ever won one set off Djokovic on a clay court and 30 minutes after being broken in the second had two match points!
In tight moments the usual trusty shot can get away from you and what seemed like a straight forward forehand form the centre of court drifted wide and long from Del Potro as the first match point disappeared.
The second was back on the Djokovic serve and this guys nerve and trust amazes me. The Serb hit a stunning drop shot from behind the baseline once again and it felt like the ball was in the air for an eternity and the 10,000 people on Court Centrale held a collected breath as it dropped perfectly over the net.
At around quarter past midnight a it was a loose backhand from the Argentine which gave Del Potro the set.
These two continued to push each other as we got further into the night, a simple incredible guided forehand up the line to save a crucial break point.
At 2-2, 30-30 the tennis got better and better with an audacious drop half volley from Del Potro with mutual appreciation between the two for this beauty!
Djokovic went onto break in this game and never looked back sealing the win with an ace after a long battle into the late night winning 4-6 7-6 6-4