He saved a break point in the final game by hitting an off-balance drop shot winner off a del Potro serve return that clipped the net cord. Two points later, Djokovic had his 53rd career win on grass — 24 more than del Potro.
“You can see I played my best tennis ever on grass court,” del Potro said, “but was not enough to beat the No. 1 in the world. I was so close.”
It was quite a taxing stay at Wimbledon for del Potro, who came into the semifinal with his left knee heavily taped, a victim of two nasty slips that sent him tumbling earlier in the tournament. The second fall came two days earlier, on the fifth point of his quarterfinal against David Ferrer. Del Potro said the trainer gave him a couple of “magic pills” — anti-inflammatories — and that kept him going in his straight-sets win over the No. 4 seed.
Against Djokovic, del Potro showed few signs of an aftereffect.
Tested throughout by a variety of Djokovic drop shots, del Potro got to most. More than once, the Argentine did his impression of a lanky golden retriever — chasing the tennis ball from wide of the court on the forehand side to wide of the court on the backhand side. After going wide in the third set to hit one of his 48 winners, del Potro stood on the ledge separating the court from the stands, waiting for a high-5 from one of the fans at courtside.
The fans soaked in the del Potro experience, cheering on the underdog as he pushed the world’s best player to the limit.
“They help me a lot for fight, to keep trying, keep going,” del Potro said. “Of course I’m sad now, but in a couple of days, I will see how big the match was.”