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Michelle Kaufman, McClatchy Newspapers (MCT), Published August 03 2012

Record-setting Olympic tennis match in the books

WIMBLEDON, England — Who says Olympic tennis doesn’t matter to multi-millionaire athletes? Top-ranked Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro battled nearly four and a half hours on Centre Court before the Swiss finally outlasted the Argentine 4-6, 7-6 (5), 19-17 in an equally grueling and thrilling semifinal match.

DelPotro was overcome with emotion in the interview area afterward, able to answer only a few questions.

“To be honest, to lose this way hurts a lot, it’s very hard to talk about it right now,’’ Del Potro said. “I have to go take a shower now and try to do my best in the (mixed) doubles out of respect for Gisela (Dulko). Someone has to win these matches, today it was his turn to win. At the U.S. Open it was my turn. That’s the way it goes.’’

It was the longest three-set men’s singles match in the Open era, surpassing the 4:03 it took for Novak Djokovic to beat Rafael Nadal in the 2009 Madrid Open semifinal. Olympic tennis doesn’t use a tiebreaker, so the third set dragged on for 163 minutes. NBA star Kobe Bryant was among the fans in the audience.

Federer, who won his seventh Wimbledon title here last month, will play for his first singles gold medal on Sunday against the winner of the second semifinal between No. 2-seeded Novak Djokovic of Serbia and No. 3 Andy Murray of Britain.

Federer and Swiss teammate Stanislas Wawrinka won the gold in doubles at the 2008 Beijing Games. But 17-time Grand Slam title winner Federer has failed to win a singles gold in three tries, just about the only thing missing from his resume.

On the women’s side, Maria Sharapova advanced to the final with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Maria Kirilenko. She plays the winner of the Serena Williams vs. Victoria Azarenka semifinal.

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©2012 The Miami Herald

Distributed by MCT Information Services