Friday, May 27, 2011

Thoughts on Nole-Delpo

Novak Djokovic's 41-match winning streak is on hold, as play was suspended after two hard fought sets with Juan Martin del Potro today.

What an amazing ending to day 6 at the French Open.

It was already a thrilling day, with the women's No. 1 seed getting knocked off in the third round. There was also a generally boisterous atmosphere, which was spirited by the successes of Frenchmen Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils. But when Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro took the court, the electricity spiked again. The tennis then ascended to another galaxy. Those poor Babolat balls were wishing they had never been assigned to this match.

I was floored... First of all, I didn't expect delpo to be that good. We all know that delpo has been up against it with the physical ailments of late. It's been a struggle for the big man, as he is still effectively returning from wrist surgery in addition to dealing with a recent hip problem (suffered May 5).

But del Potro, regardless of all his supposed ailments, (and after a slow and snoozy first set) reached a truly formidable level in the second. It was a stunning display, and it served to remind us of just how imposing Juan Martin del Potro can be on a tennis court.

How had I forgotten how ridiculously good delpo can be? The sheer brute force of many of his shots was so astounding that there was simply no defending them. The 6'6"Argentine truly is momentously M-I-G-H-T-Y.

But so is Djokovic, and the match took on a clash of the titan-esque feel as two started to really lock horns in the second set. Not only was the tennis sublime, but the drama was enhanced by the fading daylight, and the obvious implications it would have on the match. As spillover fans crowded in the aisles to get glimpses of the action, Djokovic and del Potro were racing for pole position at the day's conclusion.

As a result, the set was played with an air of immediacy. What we got is two of the game's elite, playing like souped-up sports cars on a clay roadway, exchanging in mind-boggling rallies that were "oh-my-goodness" good.

This was the most to-die-for tennis of the first six days of the French Open, and as it progressed, and the implications of the waning sunlight became an integral part of the drama, the intrigue reached a fever pitch.

While these two titans kept dueling, I kept thinking... "oh-my-god delpo is really going for it" and "oh-my-god how is djokovic even getting a racquet on those balls, let alone smashing them wherever he wants to?"

On and on it went, until the sun pulled the plug on it, deadlocked at a set apiece.

Now we are left to ponder, what will happen tomorrow? Delpo has escaped the fitness factor of this duel, due to the suspension of play, and his chances of ending the streak are significantly higher than they were going into today. I'll call that a win for delpo, but there is still the monumental task of taking two out of three from the Djoker tomorrow. Nobody else has been able to do it this year, but if delpo can manage to take his game up one more notch, he just might be the guy.

For Djokovic, not being able to exploit his fitness advantage has to be a bummer, but given the resolve and resiliency that he's shown all season, my guess is that he's sleeping comfortably right now, eager for a chance to prove himself yet again tomorrow.

Those who are eager to point out the injustice done to Djokovic should realize that these kind of things ( a player's ability to deal with a suspension) are further tests of a players mettle (and of the devotion of his support team). For Djokovic to rebut del Potro's challenge he'll simply have to do what he's been doing all year -- prove again that he is by far the best in the world at the moment.

That's what he's been living for, and that's what he'll probably do.

But you never know, and I always enjoy those you-never-know type matches.

How could you not?


  1. Technically, this isn't a best of 5 match's the best of 3, given the overnight break, and they're dead even. Should be a great match either way. Hoping del Potro gets this one. He could definitely use the extra rest.

  2. I was thinking the exact same things while watching. Delpo lost the momentum by the match being closed early. that counts too.


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