London: US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro kept alive his challenge at the ATP World Tour Finals with a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7/1) victory over Fernando Verdasco on Tuesday.
After losing his opening Group A match to Andy Murray, Del Potro knew he had to see off Verdasco in their first ever Tour meeting to remain in contention for a semi-final place.
The 21-year-old rose to the challenge with a typically belligerent display of guts and power-hitting and could qualify for the last four with a win in his last match, against Roger Federer, on Thursday.
Verdasco, 26, is appearing in the Tour Finals for the first time after enjoying the best season of his career. But the left hander looks certain to make an early exit after his second defeat of the round robin stage.
Del Potro had been unable to subdue Murray in a three-set encounter on Sunday, while Verdasco dominated the opening stages against world number one Federer but also ended up losing in three sets.
Suffering a nose bleed in the first set against Murray had hardly helped del Potro’s cause, but he packed a greater punch in the early stages this time.
The towering Argentine has risen to fifth in the world rankings after a breakthrough year capped by his shock five-set victory over Federer in September’s US Open final and he showed the form that so impressed in New York as he took control of the first set.
He quickly found his range with some thudding ground-strokes and broke in the third game for a 2-1 lead.
Del Potro remained in control until he had to serve for the set at 5-4, then he faltered and allowed Verdasco two break points. The Spaniard couldn’t convert though and del Potro took the set.
Hitting with increasing accuracy from the baseline, Verdasco began to wear down del Potro and broke in the eighth game for a 5-3 lead before serving out the second set.
Del Potro broke in the sixth game when he successfully challenged that Verdasco’s forehand was out.
But Verdasco wasn’t going to surrender just yet. He saved a match point at 2-5 and then broke back as del Potro served for the match.
Del Potro was unable to finish off another match point in the 10th game. But the Argentine finally completed a hard-fought win in comprehensive fashion as he blew Verdasco away in the tie-break.