SHANGHAI:Juan Martin del Potro said he was playing even better than when he won the 2009 US Open after pushing Novak Djokovic to the limit in a gripping Shanghai Masters final.
The towering Argentine won this month’s Japan Open and beat world number one Rafael Nadal in the Shanghai semi-finals, before coming up just short in a third-set tie-breaker with Djokovic.
But the six-foot-six inch (1.98 metre) del Potro has shown he is primed for another assault on the majors with three titles this year and two appearances in Masters finals.
“I think I’m playing even better than many years ago,” the 25-year-old world number five told reporters in Shanghai.
“I couldn’t win a Grand Slam like I did in 2009 but I have reached finals in the Masters. I have already won three tournaments. I beat the top guys, which is fantastic for me,” he added.
“I think I’m playing even better than 2009 or 2008 or last year. That’s important. That’s a good thing for the future. I still have the same goal, which is getting closer to the top guys. If I keep working like this, I hope I can be there one day.”
Before Tokyo, del Potro won in Rotterdam and Washington this year and lost the Indian Wells Masters final to Nadal.
He beat world David Ferrer in the Wimbledon quarter-finals before losing to Djokovic in the semis.
In Shanghai, the stunning 6-2, 6-4 victory over Nadal -- handing the Spaniard only his fifth defeat this year -- qualified del Potro for the World Tour Finals in London.
He said he was still not quite in the same league as the quartet known as tennis’s ‘Big Four’: Nadal, Djokovic, Andy Murray and Swiss great Roger Federer.
But del Potro, the only man other than that exalted quartet to win a Grand Slam title since 2005, is quietly confident that he is not far away from their level.