Roger Federer made the Olympic Games debut in 2000 in Sydney and barely missed a medal at 19. Four years later, Tomas Berdych ousted him in Athens, and it was not to be for the Swiss in Beijing 2008. Desperate to add one of the last notable missing titles in his collection, Federer got a massive opportunity to chase the Golden Slam in London 2012, just a couple of weeks after lifting the seventh Wimbledon trophy. Returning to his beloved courts at the All England Club, Roger had to dig deep in the opening round against Alejandro Falla before finding the rhythm versus Julien Benneteau and Denis Istomin. Federer prevailed against John Isner with a single break of serve in the quarters to set the semi-final encounter against world no. 9 Juan Martin del Potro.
The Argentine advanced into the semis and moved closer to a medal, gaining a massive boost and giving his best against Federer on August 3. After four hours and 26 minutes of epic tennis, Federer prevailed 3-6, 7-6, 19-17, in the longest three-setter in the Open era! Roger won six points more, losing serve twice and squandering 11 out of 13 opportunities on the return and a chance to seal the deal earlier. The Swiss had more winners and errors, building the advantage in the shortest range up to four strokes thanks to 23 aces and losing ground a bit in the extended exchanges that kept Juan Martin alive for almost four and a half hours. Del Potro erased a break chance in the opener’s third game and forced Roger’s error at 4-3 to forge the advantage.
Roger Federer needed four and a half hours to beat del Potro in London 2012.
Serving for the set in game nine, the Argentine held at love with a forehand winner to take it 6-3 in 36 minutes, hoping for more of the same in the rest of the duel. In the second set’s second game, the Argentine repelled two break chances and closed it with a backhand winner that boosted his confidence. Federer was in trouble behind the initial shot at 2-2, saving a break point with a powerful serve and bringing the game home after many deuces to remain in touch. Del Potro had to play against a break chance in the next one, staying calm and leveling the score at 3-3. In one of the encounter’s most crucial moments, Roger landed a forehand winner to defend a break point at 4-4 before clinching the tie break 7-5 with an ace to arrange the deciding set. It was the one that earned a place in the record books, and Juan Martin prolonged it after passing all the obstacles in games seven and nine.
Federer wasted a massive opportunity at 7-7 when he netted a routine backhand on a break point before moving in front at 9-9 to serve for the victory. Cold as ice, Juan Martin broke back at love to level the score at 10-10 and extend the drama. After commanding holds on both sides, del Potro had to dig deep at 14-14, fending off three break chances and moving two points away from the victory in the next one. Roger Federer brought the game home after two deuces and made the decisive move with a break at 15 at 17-17, serving for a place in the final for the second time. There were no mistakes from the Swiss this time, and he sealed the deal after Juan Martin’s forced error to advance into the first and only Olympic Games singles final.