Del Potro edges Rafael Nadal to set up final with Andy Murray


RIO DE JANEIRO : Argentina s Juan Martin del Potro will tackle defending champion Andy Murray for Olympic gold Sunday, insisting that his magical Rio run tops his lone Grand Slam triumph at the 2009 US Open.
The 27-year-old was on the brink of retiring last year after undergoing a third wrist operation in five years and seeing his ranking drop from four in the world to its current 141.
But the 1.98m (6ft 6ins) giant has been rejuvenated in Rio beating world number one Novak Djokovic in the first round before seeing off 2008 Olympic champion Rafael Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 7-6, (7/5) in an epic three-hour semi-final on Sunday.
“It means a lot to me. It s very big, maybe even more special than when I won the US Open,” said del Potro, who was mobbed by Argentine fans at the end of the semi-final.
“I didn t expect to get to the final; I didn t expect to beat Djokovic. It s just amazing for me.
“I am living a dream and the crowd make me cry after every match.”
Del Potro, a bronze medal winner at the 2012 London Olympics, trails Murray 5-2 in career meetings with his last win coming three years ago.
“Andy is the favourite, for sure. I am glad with my success so far. I just need to try and be in good shape for the final,” he said.
Second seed Murray reached his second successive Olympic final with a ruthless 6-1, 6-4 demolition of Japan s Kei Nishikori.
He insisted he s ready to conquer the challenge of becoming the first player to win back-to-back golds.
“It would mean a lot to me. It s not easy, that s why it s never been done before, but I will go out there and give it my best,” said the 29-year-old world number two.
“I am guaranteed a medal already but the goal is to win gold and I ll do all I can to do it.”
Sunday s victory allowed Murray to extend his mastery over Nishikori to 7-1 and stretch his current winning streak to a career-best 17 matches.
Murray insisted that he will not take Del Potro lightly despite his relative freshness and head-to-head record over the Argentine.
“Juan Martin s played great here and has lots of confidence after beating Novak and he had a great win against Stan Wawrinka at Wimbledon,” said Murray.
“He s getting back to the level he was at before and that s good to see.”
While Del Potro and Murray battle for gold, Nadal and Nishikori must regroup for the bronze medal match.
Victory for Nadal would give him a third Olympic medal to add to his 2008 singles title in Beijing and doubles gold in Rio on Sunday alongside Marc Lopez.
Injury prevented him from defending his title in London in 2012.It will be Nadal s 11th match in Rio and he said he is happy to have got this far having not played a tournament since May when a left wrist injury forced an early withdrawal from the French Open.
“I am satisfied. I did my best. I fought and with great spirit. After two and a half months without playing, I was able to compete against some of the best players in the world,” said the 14-time major winner.