Monday, July 18, 2011

Is Del Potro All the Way Back?

Sure, Juan Martin del Potro is back in the top 20. But is he ready to win another Grand Slam?

The Tower of Tandil has been through a lot since he surprised the world (not me, I picked him) by winning the 2009 US Open final. Media barrage and resultant emotional roller coaster? Check. Wrist surgery? check. A drop outside of the top 400? Check. More injuries, including a tear in a hip muscle and a Raonic-like tumble on the Wimbledon grass? Check. Horrible draws that pitted him against the two best players in the world before the quarterfinals in the last two slams? Check.

When it comes to trials and tribulations, the 22-year-old Argentine has had his share. Still, it could be worse. He could be Andy Murray, for one, and be forever associated with falling short, of getting painfully close to the holy grail only to fall apart and trip clumsily over the final hurdle.

No offense to Murray whatsoever, but del Potro has already proven that he can be as good as gold when it really matters. Murray may be known as a member of tennis's "big four" but del Potro is one of only of four players to have actually won a Grand Slam since the 2005 Australian Open.

When you think about it, that's the essence of tennis: magnamimity; coming good in crunch time. Tennis is all about the big points, big sets, big matches, and the even bigger tournaments. Win a bunch of less-than-colossal tournaments and implode in the Slams and you'll never hear the end from discerning tennis fans. Lose until the cows come home and over achieve at the Slams, and you've got a loyal fan base for life (and they'll whistle whenever you take your shirt off just to make you feel sexy).

It is what it is -- to coin a horribly overused slogan -- and now, as the hard court season kicks off in the U.S., what we'd like to know is: when will delpo once again be what he is? Is he ready to play larger than life again?

Health is the big question for del Potro to be sure, but lost in all the nail biting over his recent hip problem, which was a major concern heading into the French and lingered through Wimbledon, is the fact that the wrist is passing tests with flying colors these days. That befuddling wrist was a major concern for the first three months of the year, and del Potro was quick to reveal that he was hitting "in fear"at the time. When I saw him in San Jose, just prior to his first title of the year in Delray Beach, del Potro was tentative, and clearly not playing with the same unbridled orneriness that he possessed in '09.

But his trepidations about the wrist appear to have disappeared in the last few months. He's hitting the ball ferociously once again, and he's showing his teeth again too. Probably more important than the score of his 4th round loss to Nadal at Wimbledon was the fact that the Argentine was quick to challenge Nadal when he took an injury time-out just prior to their 1st set tiebreaker. He was angry, and he let it show. The match didn't break his way, but del Potro's attitude said a lot about where he feels his game his headed.

He's ready to let it all hang out again, and that's a good sign for fans of the big man. He's ready for battle. He's ready to stir it up and play his brand of angry, edgy tennis again. And more importantly, he's not afraid.

If del Potro can stay fit below the waist this summer, he should be a terror come late August. It's been a long, hard, disconcerting road, but the Tower of Tandil might soon be all the way back to form.

And if that's the case, there's no reason to believe that he can't win in New York again.


  1. Great post! I agree with your thoughts about Delpo's behavior in his match against Nadal at Wimby. In earlier matches, especially the one he played against Djokovic at RG, I felt Delpo was too reverent and paid too much respect to his opponent, at the expense of his game. I never really felt that he wanted to take it to his opponent.

    At Wimbledon though, he seemed to be playing with a bit more belief. Although he lost, due to his passive play in those TBs, I think his attitude was more of a positive sign as to where he wants to go in the near future. Lets hope his body and spirit win out during the summer hard-court season!


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