Finally, I've started to become a big fan of Tennis blogger who writes for Tennis Brain, self-described as "Match Reports and Analytical Tennis Articles". This article by Krystle Lee, was written a few weeks ago, but it is the best article I've read on the reasons behind and the implications of Del Pony's emergence. The site can be found at:http://www.tennis-brain.com/#
There is also an fantastic article written a few days ago on the schedule defeating the purpose of the tour. I'll post it in our thread on that topic later today. Juan Martin Del Potro, the 2009 US Open men's champion
It’s been a while since we’ve had a new Grand Slam champion, not since Novak Djokovic captured the Australian Open title in 2008. You’d be hard pressed to find a more impressive performance than the one that Juan Martin Del Potro displayed today against Roger Federer, in what was the Argentine’s first Grand Slam final.
I have already made reference to it numerous times before, the rapid pace with which Del Potro seems to be improving, yet he still seems to find a way to amaze me just when I thought I had already handed out enough compliments his way as of late.
It was a high quality match, full of drama and unpredictability, and it was a welcome change to see a new Grand Slam champion at the end. Now that Federer has already broken all sorts of records, I think it’s a positive sign for men’s tennis to have this additional competitiveness near the top, especially if it means we’re going to get matches of this quality to look forward to in the future.
In regards to Del Potro’s performance in the final, he was impressive on so many levels, that it warrants a list of exactly why this was the case.
Del Potro played the best match of his life in the biggest match of his career, his first Grand Slam final against Roger Federer, recently been acknowledged as the Greatest of all Time and winner of the last couple of Grand Slams. He hadn’t won a single match against Federer in the past, though I think Del Potro took a lot of confidence from their previous meeting in Roland Garros.
It wasn’t like Del Potro came out firing on all cylinders and played lights out tennis to start with. In fact, he was made to look clumsy to start with, having to stretch his long limbs all over the court rarely getting a shot in his comfort zone. But the biggest problem seemed to me, that Federer didn’t even let Del Potro get into a rhythm, the opportunity to raise his level of play. He was thoroughly outplayed, and it could have been easy to think that he simply wasn’t in the same league as Federer, at least not at this point of his career.
In his post-match interview after his semi-final win, Del Potro promised the crowd that he would fight for every point, and he delivered on this promise in a way that no one could have imagined or expected. Del Potro wasn’t deterred by the fact that he was comfortably outplayed. All he needed was a slight drop in level from Federer, and once they were back on serve, it turned into a completely different ball game. Del Potro was now feeling loose and confident and had turned the match on its head, not only on the scoreboard but he had somehow changed the match to be played in his favour, exchanging the type of rallies that he likes.
Even when Del Potro started to pick up his play initially, it wasn’t like he suddenly found the range on his shots. In fact, his play was on and off, brilliant shots combined with errors as you would expect with a game as aggressive as that. But it was like he was somehow able to not associate himself with whether a shot landed in the court or not, focused on each individual shot only, trying to play the best he could. Then the more he got into this frame of mind of hitting big shots, the more consistency he developed and confidence in himself of being able to back it up.
This ability of Del Potro’s to find a way to elevate his game when he needs it is currently what puts him in front of Andy Murray, the ability to sense when he needs to take it up a notch, that his current game isn’t good enough, and more importantly, he has the execution to back it up.
Del Potro didn’t have much of a say early in the match, but he slowly started making himself known as a threat, both through his energy, on-court presence and the way he stepped up the pace on his groundstrokes. Del Potro is normally selective about which shots he decides to unload on because he doesn’t really need to red line his game, but when he removed that margin of error, the end result was quite devastating, especially his forehand which caught fire from the fourth set onwards.
Serving to stay in the third set of the match, Del Potro served two consecutive double faults to lose the set. He vented his frustration at the changeover, and buried in his head in the towel, a look of extreme disappointment heading into the fourth set, but he didn't forget how he played himself into this position and continued in the same vein going after his shots.
He came across a couple of stumbling blocks, and his level did dip inevitably having to save break points in his opening two service games, but whenever he needed it he came up with his best shots. It seems like there is no limit to Del Potro’s mental stability, no occasion that is too great to shake his extraordinary self-confidence.
Then his game picked up midway from the fourth set, and that’s when he started to stamp his authority on the match, looking like the noticeably better player. He wasn’t as secure on his service games as he usually is, and he lost his serve once here, and once in the previous set as well, but he was able to let it go and continue to chase after the next game. Usually big servers hate it when they lose their service games, but it didn’t bother Del Potro, and he’s willing to accept a few errors here and there knowing that he’s playing the right way.
Del Potro’s return of serve which started to land the sweet spot more and more as the match went on, able to knock it back quick and fast with devastating pace right back at Federer’s feet.
Federer started to look more rattled as the match went on, trying to rush Del Potro before Del Potro could rush him, but Federer’s backhand got him into trouble with that blocked, short backswing not really doing much in terms of being able to reflect the pace coming off Del Potro’s racquet. In my mind, Del Potro’s game forced Federer into error, and into helplessness. It's pretty hard trying to execute any kind of game plan when you're up against someone hitting as hard as that.
Does Del Potro have any sense of fear whatsoever? It seemed like regardless of the situation, whether it was recovering from disappointment, fighting to maintain a lead, saving break points, or whether he was close to victory, he maintained the same kind of racquet head speed and continued to hit almost with reckless abandon. It’s incredibly difficult to maintain the same quality of play playing that aggressively, where any drop in racquet head speed will pretty much result in an error.
As impressive as Del Potro was mentally, he played with the mindset of an underdog, of someone that had nothing to lose. Djokovic and Murray to some extent have shown that it is incredibly difficult to keep up that kind of attitude and confidence. How will Del Potro change mentally when he’s expected to make the back end of tournaments, and more of the mainstream press have started to focus their attention on him?
How determined is Del Potro that the first thing that he mentions on his victory speech after playing the match of his life is that he still has a long way to improve before he can catch up to Federer career-wise? I know it was intended to be a compliment to Federer's achievements, but it also spoke volumes about Del Potro's intentions on trying to maximise his game and that he's not yet satisfied with where he currently is.