Del Potro Does it Again

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Does what again, exactly? He followed-up the brilliant Thiem R16 match by putting it to Federer in the QF. He also prevented, again, a Nadal v Federer USO match. If you’ve seen enough of Del Potro over the years, you know that he has some of the biggest big match balls on the ATP.

His win over Federer in the 2009 U.S. Open final was against rampant, peak Federer. That Roger had lost in the AO final to Rafa, but then won RG and WB before swimming through his NYC draw.

At the AO that year (2009), Federer beat Del Potro in the QF 3 0 and 0. But Juan certainly got his shit together because by the final major of that year, he was destructive. He beat Nadal in the 2009 U.S. Open SF 2 2 and 2. Then he shocked the world, coming from down 2 sets to 1 and beating the then world No. 1.

Sure a lot has changed with the Argentine; we’re talking mostly about the string of injuries, mainly to his wrist. But he still has that big heart that can carry an entire nation, seemingly. He’s loved because he’s a class act. A recent example was his humanity in light of Almagro’s breakdown at this year’s French Open.

He’s also loved and appreciated because he competes with deep, clutch desire and passion, which seems appropriate for this South American gentle giant. In this era of top-heavy celebrity tennis, it’s been nice to see a few athletes man-enough to step-up and dismiss one of the favorites.

And he has probably the best FH in the history of the sport.

We all saw the match and have a take or two on what happened there tonight in the final QF match of the tournament.

I picked-up the match in the third set, Federer down 0-3. Looked bleak for the Maestro. Until then, I followed the match on my phone, and could tell very early-on that DelPo wasn’t going anywhere. I think a lot of us had a pretty good sense this would happen.

But of course Federer righted the ship in that third set and survived into the TB, where the match was really decided. Federer at 6-4 with his serve looked pretty solid. Grab the set and try to close-out the match. Even Juan would have seen a pretty steep hill to climb at that point. But Roger couldn’t even close-out the TB. He had three or four set points and either goofed the shot (how about that one back-hand up at the net he probably should have BH volleyed, but let it bounce and hit it long. . . what?), or Juan came-up big. I’m pretty sure Del Potro needed just one SP. And that was the match.

You could see it there in front of you. DP breaking at 5-5 in the first. And then snatching that third from the jaws of down-two-sets-to-one.

One of my readers/commenters with cat-like tennis intelligence called Del Potro in four sets (Well done, Frazier). My response was sure this could be very tough for the Swiss if the Argentine is on the mend from that little bug he had the last couple of days.

But I also said the game plan of Federer’s, certainly delineated by his genius box where Ivan holds the gavel, to keep one’s serve and pound Juan’s BH should put the 3 seed in pretty good shape.

He played to the giant’s FH without pause. Of course, Federer does prefer to go there with his FH. Sure he likes the inside-out, DTL FH which works great, but he likes to come over and hit that CC or inside-in FH that is one of the best FH we’ve ever seen.

So Juan got to use his FH quite a bit tonight and, from what I saw, punished Roger with it. Not sure what the strategy was with that (then again, you can’t not hit to a guy’s FH at all). Rafa will pound Del Potro’s BH, but of course Rafa gets to use his FH to do that. Either way, Federer, unlike almost everyone else I’ve seen play DP this year, did not shy away from that notorious fearhand.

But that wasn’t the only issue. In fact, there were stretches, in the third set as he got back on serve and had the set in hand in the TB, for instance, where playing to the DP FH looked to work. He seemed to almost tempt an over-use, a go-for-broke shot and the Argentine obliged here and there. Still, seems like an odd strategy for a guy who can hit the ball to both sides of the court. This speaks perhaps too to this BH not being completely up to snuff. How was the back tonight? As we’ve been saying for a few days/matches now, he seemed a little off; the back has to have been an issue, especially if we’re talking about that OHBH.

But his net play seemed pretty ineffective, as well. They flashed the numbers of his net efficiency, which didn’t look that bad, but as I watched, when Roger came to net, Juan easily passed. The big guy’s BH even worked DTL on some of those passes. Federer just didn’t seem to have a lot on the ball; he was getting passed pretty routinely, which speaks more to Roger’s timing and his weak approach when these are often easier points.

The big serve of Del Potro and the big FH is a lethal combination. The BH has improved, by the way. Watch Del Potro in Acapulco in February, or in Miami in March. All he had was a rough slice. If Federer had tried harder to expose that, maybe we’d be talking about that vulnerability, but that didn’t happen.

Thiem tried to expose the BH in the R16. That worked more or less for a while.

I think we’re into that land of intangibles, folks. I’ll go ahead and say it: if there’s a tennis god, Del Potro wins his second U.S. Open. This is his domain, the NYC HC, even though it’s playing like a piece of sandpaper.

Del Potro doesn’t have the BH, but I see a similar approach in the tennis of Del Potro and Wawrinka. It’s power tennis, with a flatter ball that can play the opponent into the East River. When Stan has that form, all bets are off.

Del Potro was the Man before they called Stan the Man.

Yada yada yada. I’ll have a bit more to say before the match.

Nadal will definitely be ready for this – he hasn’t broken a sweat. But doesn’t that work against him, as well?

Can’t wait for Friday night.

3 comments

    1. People have been doing that all year (except Federer last night). His backhand has improved. I’ve been watching and writing about it all year.

      The bigger issue is how in form Del Potro is in the SF. Like the Stanimal, if he’s playing like he was against Thiem in the last three sets or vs. Federer, Nadal will lose.

      If Del Potro isn’t sharp, shows fatigue and gets down early, Nadal will advance.

      I suspect Juan will be in decent form and this will be a tennis that Nadal has yet to see. Even if Nadal played Thiem here, it would be a huge jump up in level. He’s been playing cans of corn.

      If Del Potro is serving large and (here’s the key that fucks with Nadal’s strategy) returning serve effectively, he will be tough to beat.

What say you?