ROGER Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro were both fuming during the final of the Indian Wells Masters on Monday (AEDT) in front of a hostile crowd.
Two of the calmest players on tour were anything but as they fought out a tense decider in California while raucous fans got on both stars’ nerves.
Del Potro successfully ended Federer’s unbeaten start to 2018, winning the match 6-4 6-7 (8-10) 7-6 (7-2). He started in perfect fashion by claiming the first set, but if he hoped taking an early lead would get the crowd on his side, he was wrong.
An already tense match-up between the good friends exploded to life in the second set as Federer and his Argentinian opponent lashed out at the chair umpire and those in the stands. Del Potro was furious at fans who were yelling out between serves and trying to put him off, while he also took aim at umpire Fergus Murphy for failing to control them.
“The people are screaming when I miss a first serve!” a filthy Del Potro yelled at Murphy in the second set as he demanded the official keep the crowd quiet. “Just do it!”
Murphy asked the crowd to respect Del Potro but the interference continued and even though there was a pro-Federer sentiment in the air, the Swiss maestro was not impressed.
His mood soured further when he challenged a Del Potro serve he believed was out, only for Hawkeye to prove him wrong. Later, serving for the set, the crowd cheered believing the 36-year-old had sent down an ace to square the ledger at one-set all, but a Del Potro challenge came to the World No. 8’s rescue.
The serve was actually out and Federer double faulted, leading to more unhappiness from his end of the court.
The tennis world was stunned by the surprise outbursts from the normally serene Federer. He’s not always completely placid on court but his displays of anger were unlike what we’re used to seeing from the 20-time grand slam champion.
A displeased Federer looked like he was upset with the crowd, the umpire and being on the wrong side of more than one challenge.
Temper tantrums aside, the tennis was extraordinarily entertaining. Down 5-4 in the second, Del Potro saved two set points as Federer struggled to level things up. The Swiss needed seven set points to eventually make it one set apiece.
The standard wasn’t always perfect — both players made uncharacteristic unforced errors as Del Potro’s forehand failed him and Federer’s backhand didn’t come to the party. But interspersed between the ugliness were cracking running winners, while Federer’s artistry with his drop shot was next level.
Tensions weren’t quite as high in the deciding set until the crowd was treated to some late drama. Federer broke for a 5-4 lead and was serving for the match when he pinged Del Potro with a backhand to the body, prompting the Argentine to glare at him.
Del Potro maintained the rage as he saved three match points to break right back and make it 5-5 before both players held their next service games, sending things to a tiebreak.
After the 29-year-old hit a scorching forehand winner Federer once again took his frustration out on the umpire and losing his cool may have cost him at the start of the tiebreak.
Del Potro went up 3-0 and at the change of ends boasted a 5-1 lead. He didn’t let his opportunity slip, winning the tiebreak 7-2 to claim the match 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (7-2) and pick up the silverware.
His triumph brought Federer’s unbeaten streak in 2018 to an end on 17 wins.
Speaking in his post-match press conference Federer said he didn’t know “what the hell happened” in the final tiebreak, but remained composed enough to deliver a classy message of congratulations to Del Potro during the on-court presentation.
“Not much in between us but you deserve it. Well done. Enjoy the moment,” Federer said.