INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Juan Martin del Potro defeated top-ranked Novak Djokovic 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday, handing the Serb his first loss in 21 matches dating to last October.
Del Potro snapped his own four-match skid against Djokovic, who had beaten the Argentine in eight of 10 meetings.
Del Potro’s 133-mph ace closed out the nearly 3-hour match in 96-degree heat. Del Potro raised both arms in celebration.
At times, the unseasonable heat seemed to have worn down Del Potro, who draped a white towel packed with ice around his shoulders on changeovers, his chest heaving from several long rallies.
It was Djokovic’s first loss since Oct. 31, when American Sam Querrey beat him indoors at the Paris Masters. The Serb had won 17 consecutive matches and two titles, including the Australian Open, to start the year.
Del Potro, the second Argentine to reach the final here, will play Rafael Nadal for the title on Sunday.
No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova and No. 8 Caroline Wozniacki will play in the women’s final.
Nadal rallied to beat Tomas Berdych 6-4, 7-5 and reach the final.
Off to the best start of his career, Nadal improved to 16-1 — including 13 wins in a row — on the year, having won two clay-court titles and been runner-up in another since returning from a left knee injury that idled him for seven months.
“It’s very, very difficult to imagine something like this. But here we are today, and very happy about all what happened the last month, especially last three weeks,” said Nadal, who beat No. 2 Roger Federer in straight sets in the quarterfinals.
“I don’t have nothing to lose after seven months.”
It was Nadal’s 12th straight win over Berdych.
“He looks strong again,” Berdych said of Nadal, whose leg is taped just below his left knee. “He still plays very aggressive, and what he was missing in his first matches when he come back after the injury was maybe a bit of confidence in his game, but definitely not today and not anymore.”