He may have come up short in the gold medal match at the Rio Olympics, but Juan Martin del Potro managed to deliver against Andy Murray on behalf of Argentina on Friday.
In a five hour and seven minute marathon, del Potro came from two sets to one down to upset Murray, 6-4, 5-7, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4, in the first rubber of the Davis Cup semifinals between Argentina and Great Britain.
Given his recent losses at Wimbledon, the Olympics and the U.S. Open, Del Potro’s chances appeared gone after failing to serve out the third set and letting it slip away in a tiebreaker. Instead, it was del Potro who appeared the fresher player, as Murray dealt with minor leg cramps and was unable to hit through the court like the Argentine could with his unrivaled forehand. The pivotal shot of the match was this incredible del Potro forehand winner on the dead run to score the break in the fifth set:
The longest match of either player’s career, it was del Potro’s first five-setter since January 2014 and his first victory in one since January 2010, snapping a seven match losing streak in such matches. Despite his backhand troubles post-injuries, he has now beaten Stan Wawrinka, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Murray since Wimbledon, along with a couple wins over Dominic Thiem earlier this season.
For Murray, he set a bunch of personal history, but unfortunately for him, most of it was of the negative variety.
As mentioned, it was the longest match of his career, and that enabled him to obliterate his career high in aces, with 35:
Andy Murray served 35 aces, the most he's served in a match, previous highest was 26 vs Clement 2005 US Open. Ironically both were losses.
— Craig Gabriel (@crosscourt1) September 16, 2016
Otherwise, it was all bad news. This was Murray’s first home loss in Davis Cup (this tie is in Glasgow) and it marks back-t0-back heartbreakers in which he’s failed to close out a lead heading into the fourth set. Prior to this match and his U.S. Open loss to Kei Nishikori, Murray had won 50 of 51 matches this decade when leading two sets to one, the only defeat occurring in the 2012 Australian Open semifinals against Djokovic.
Initially big favorites, Great Britain now finds themselves on the ropes and in a 2-0 hole heading into the weekend after Guido Pella came from a set down to knock off British prospect Kyle Edmund in four sets, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.
Despite his arduous summer and the five hours spent on court Friday, England will need Murray to continue to carry them on his back. He’ll team up with brother Jamie (who just took his second doubles Slam of the year at the U.S. Open) to stave off elimination in doubles on Saturday before a potential singles match against Pella on Sunday.
In the other semifinal, Croatia and France (who are without injured Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga) are tied after Richard Gasquet swept Borna Coric and Marin Cilic comfortably handled Lucas Pouille. Just as in Croatia’s comeback over the United States in July, Cilic is expected to sub in for Marin Draganja into the doubles alongside Ivan Dodig to take on the top team in the world, Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert.