LONDON (Reuters) - Juan Martin del Potro overcame his marathon semi-final defeat to win bronze in the Olympic tennis men’s singles on Sunday, Argentina’s first medal of the Games.
Del Potro, whose semi-final loss to top seed Roger Federer on Friday was the longest men’s three-set match played in the professional era, bounced back to a 7-5 6-4 victory over Serbia’s Novak Djokovic.
“I know everybody in Argentina was following this match, trying to give me the power to play my best tennis. I really appreciated that. I think this gift is for all our country,” the 23-year-old told reporters.
“I‘m the most happy man in the world at this moment. After a really sad day two days ago, it’s not easy to recover and to play these kind of matches. But I had energy in my body, in my heart, and that helped me face this big challenge,” he said.
Despite Beijing bronze medalist Djokovic having several opportunities to break his opponent, the rain-interrupted first set went with serve until 5-5 when del Potro snatched the lead.
The number two seed’s chances of retaining the bronze slipped away from him as he fell behind early in the second set, with the tall Argentine serving to wrap up the win in an hour and 48 minutes - a comeback that surprised even Federer.
“I came out and I saw Juan Martin. I said, ‘Wow. Great effort. I‘m so happy for you after the brutal loss’,” the 17-time grand slam winner, who took silver after losing the final to Britain’s Andy Murray, said of the moment he realised who had won the bronze.
“I don’t think many were favoring Juan Martin to win that match. That was a great, great effort.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury