The gang of four who have ruled men's tennis for the last year have a new member. Juan Martin Del Potro has been knocking on the door of the game's elite for most of 2009 and barged it down with a stunning 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals of the US Open here yesterday.
In today's final the 20-year-old Argentine will meet Roger Federer, who beat Novak Djokovic 7-6, 7-5, 7-5, moving towards victory in the third set by reaching match point with an outrageous "hot dog" winner through his legs that brought Arthur Ashe Stadium to its feet.
Del Potro, who will climb to No 5 in this week's update world rankings list behind Federer, Nadal, Andy Murray and Djokovic, took full advantage of his opponent's physical problems. Nadal was well below his best, having been troubled by a stomach muscle injury for the last month, and suffered the heaviest defeat of his Grand Slam career.
Using every inch of his 6ft 6in frame, Del Potro outgunned the world No 3 with his thunderous ground strokes from the baseline. The 20-year-old Argentine also served with great power and consistency and never trailed after breaking in the fourth game. Nadal had five break points in the match but did not take any of them.
It will be Del Potro's first appearance in a Grand Slam final. He got close earlier this summer, losing to Federer in a tight semi-final at the French Open, but has lost all six of his matches against the world No 1.
Having refused earlier in the tournament to discuss his injury, Nadal said after the match that he had attempted too much by playing both of last month's Masters Series tournaments following his return from a two-month break with tendinitis in his knees. He strained a stomach muscle in Montreal and fears he has torn it by continuing to play here. He said that serving had been a particular problem.
Federer, attempting to become the first man since Bill Tilden in 1925 to win six successive US Open titles, reached the 21st Grand Slam final of his career with a polished display against Djokovic. He won the first set tie-break 7-3 with a clever drop shot and took command by securing the second when two big forehands sealed the only break of serve in the twelfth game. Federer created three match points with a sensational through-the-legs "hot dog" winner and converted it immediately with a forehand winner.
*Andy Murray, whose participation in Britain's Davis Cup tie against Poland this week had been thrown into doubt by a wrist injury, last night joined up with the squad in Liverpool.