Thursday, September 1, 2011
Big Four Beware, Delpo Loves New York
When it comes to being the defending US Open champion, Rafael Nadal has company, and some pretty good company at that. Juan Martin Del Potro moved into the second round on Wednesday when he won his eighth consecutive match at the US Open, pounding 18 aces against Filippo Volandri in a 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 drubbing.
The 2009 champion, currently seeded No. 18, would like nothing better than to conjure the spirit of his lone Grand Slam title, in a place that will forever be a source of inspiration to him. But he knows it's not that simple. He still considers himself a work in progress and refuses to acknowledge that he is a serious threat in New York.
The 6'6" Argentine has been plagued by nagging injuries this year, and there is doubt as to whether Del Potro's massive frame has been built to withstand the physicality of today's tennis. Still, he's 22, on the mend, and he's back in the top 20. Plus, he absolutely loves New York: he swears allegiance to his loyal Argentine followers, which is code for he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder.
The problem is, Del Potro still doesn't feel like his game is where it needs to be. He stated that clearly in today's presser (see above), and it makes you wonder: It's been 15 months since wrist surgery...what's missing, and why?
Most who watch Del Potro are convinced that nothing is missing that time won't heal. They're buoyed by the steady progress that has occurred in his game and results—he's gone one round further at all three Grand Slams he's played since returning—and they expect him to return to the top 5 in 2012, maybe higher.
Tepid summer notwithstanding (believer speak: calm before the storm), things have been moving forward nicely for Del Potro in 2011. Now that he's in New York for the first time since he crushed his way to the 2009 title, it could be time for the Tower of Tandil to reach a new high for the season.
The motivation will certainly be there. Del Potro has openly spoken of the fact that he feels like he's defending his title here. In his mind, this is his tournament, his surface, his people in the stands, and he's letting hit inspire him.
It's early, and the tall Argentine hasn't had the best summer in the states (lost to Gulbis, Cilic and Fed in straight sets before the semis in the last three events), but his form today was saying 'it's in the past, I'm ready now.'
Maybe he can be a legitimate dark horse?
Maybe a quarterfinal match with Andy Murray is looming?
Maybe he can stay healthy?
There are lot of maybes with Del Potro, I'll give you that.
But maybe New York will be the place where he puts it all together again.