DelPo wins his 3rd Washington title (his 15th career title), after defeating Isner in three sets in the final (3-6 6-1 6-2)! This is his 2nd title in 2013 (his 5th career title at the 500-level). He’s now won 6 of his last 7 finals (the one he lost was at the Masters level at Indian Wells this year).
A week ago, he was kissing Minnie Mouse at Disney World. Today, he plants a kiss on the Citi Open trophy. It’s always a welcome sight:
This week in Washington, DelPo played with more swagger. To summarize, he defeated promising youngsters Ryan Harrison and Bernard Tomic in his first two rounds (due to rain delay, he beat them both on the same day). Then, he added two pigeons to his coop by defeating Kevin Anderson and Tommy Haas (he’s now 5-0 in the H2H over both players). In the final, he manhandled Isner.
Well, he may not exactly have manhandled Isner (I’ll get to that later), but I employ dramatic license here in order to make my point.
DelPo played great tennis during his matches against Tomic, Anderson and in the latter half of his final against Isner. Against Tomic, what impressed me was the way DelPo would step up his aggression. He was stepping well inside the baseline to return Tomic’s 2nd serves. He was seen practicing his return of serves this week in Washington and he played like someone who wanted to be a sterling returner. He readily punished Tomic’s serves out wide. DelPo’s aggression was visible and it put him ahead in the rallies. You could easily sense when DelPo “chose” to raise his level. DelPo was serving well and everything went according to script.
Against Anderson, DelPo faced a higher-quality challenge. Anderson was much smarter than Tomic with his placement of serves and this duly put DelPo on the backfoot during some of the rallies. Anderson was serving well and DelPo was serving well too. DelPo seemed superior off his groundstrokes, but Anderson would come up with aces at the right time to wipe away the BP chances. Then, DelPo showed solid confidence and clutch play to win the 1st set TB, 7-6(0). He hit a great overhead BH volley to earn 6 SPs and inflict a mini-bagel.
Credit to Anderson, who put up a tough fight, even if he fell short during the 1st set TB and then deflated somewhat in the 2nd set. In the process of solidifying his lead, DelPo also hit a 110 mph FH. That’s faster than some players’ 1st serves!
Observe the contrast in the faces after winning and losing:
Don’t get me wrong, you still couldn’t pay me to change the final result of this match!
After his peak performance against Anderson, DelPo showed a bit more trouble with his game in his SF against Haas.
Mother nature lent a helping hand to DelPo after rain halted play after he trailed 1-4 in the 1st set. The Washington mascots, panda bears named “Bam” and “Boo” hilariously dried the courts as they readied the courts for resumption of play. After the rain delay, DelPo broke back straight away and then broke to serve for the 1st set.
However, his serves on the big points were off. He DF-ed twice to get broken when he was serving for the 1st set. His 1st serves would land a meter out and his 2nd serves were labored. It seemed like he was trying to recalibrate his strategy, but suffering in the midst of trying to execute it.
The 1st set went to a TB, where Haas seemed to tense up and DelPo proved to be the steelier player. While DelPo certainly was not at his best, he still managed to maintain his record of beating Haas in straight sets. It was a long match that ended past midnight and DelPo would end up going to sleep at 3 AM, a mere 12 hours before his final against Isner.
While no mention of it has been made in official press, it seemed like DelPo may have had some tightness in his lower back. He was seen clutching his lower back/waist region and his serves were not at the level he’d shown in his wins over Tomic and Anderson. Whether this proves to be ominous for the upcoming Masters at Montreal and Cincinnati, only time will tell.
The final against Isner was interesting because of DelPo’s court position when he was returning “servebot” Isner’s serves. Early on, DelPo stood close to the baseline to return, but Isner held to love anyway. DelPo then retreated to way behind the baseline to return serve — he was so far behind the baseline, he was in danger of running into the linespeople:
Meanwhile, DelPo was spraying errors, shanking balls and netting FHs on his own serve. This was worrisome, given DelPo’s somewhat nervy performance against Haas in the SF. He was broken at love after a poor game at 1*-2. He was losing to Isner in rallies. To ISNER!
DelPo reassuringly stepped up his game to earn two BPs when Isner served out the set. Still, Isner would save them and ultimately take the 1st set, 6-3. A feeling of dread came over me, as I contemplated the very real possibility that DelPo might possibly lose a final to Isner.
Thankfully, DelPo came to his senses in the 2nd set. The most interesting part about the 2nd set: DelPo continued to stand way behind the baseline to return Isner’s 1st serve, but he would move right on the baseline to return Isner’s 2nd serves. Whether or not this was a “mental tactic,” it played off. While DelPo was a mere 15% and 33% respectively on return points against Isner’s serve in the 1st set, he got a better read of Isner’s serves and started returning with more confidence (60% and 71% in the 2nd set).
The turning point of the final came early in the 2nd set, when DelPo hit a great FH passing shot after Isner failed to put away an overhead. While this passing shot was not as great as the ones he’d hit earlier on against Haas and Anderson, it was important because it signaled a momentum shift. Minutes later, DelPo would then rifle a FH that Isner had to duck behind himself to avoid being hit by. DelPo would go on to break Isner’s serve 3 times in a row. He leveled the match after taking the 2nd set, 6-1, and he broke Isner’s serve early in the 3rd set.
Partly due to the fact that he’d figured out Isner’s serve and partly due to the fact that Isner was no longer red-lining, but DelPo established a clear lead in the 3rd set. While he was still a bit nervy when serving for the title, all ended well when he hit a pretty CC BH winner.
Fans have noted the fact that DelPo has a favorable H2H against other big servers like Isner, Roddick, Anderson, Karlovic and Querrey, yet he also has a tendency to lose the 1st set against said players. All the same, it’s encouraging that DelPo eventually got a read on Isner’s serve, which allowed him to establish himself as the aggressor.
The world loves DelPo right now. He has positive juju.
That said, the tightness he showed on his serves this week is a bit worrisome. Due to rain delay, DelPo had to do double duty at Washington and he played consecutive late-night matches in a row. Still, he will have 1-2 days of rest before he is due to play his R2 match at the Rogers Cup, against the winner of R1 Zemlja-Dodig.
The ATP site could not contain their excitement for DelPo this week. Could his win in Washington be a harbinger for a repeat of 2009, when he had a finalist run in Canada and a triumph at his favorite Slam, the USO? DelPo obviously has a bit more pressure to deal with now, especially given the comparisons between then and now:
I suppose the best way to deal with positive juju is to embrace it fully before moving on to the next challenge (at the Rogers Cup): So here’s a final celebration from DelPo, who seems to have acquired a taste for trashing the locker rooms with champagne after winning a title! (he first debuted his “champagne celebration” after winning Rotterdam this year):
Embrace the pressure and the attention, DelPo!
While DelPo stays at no. 7 in the ATP ranking, he moves ahead to no. 5 in the Race to London (the points from the London Olympics come off this week). Good progress.
Romi Cvitkovic (@RomiCvitkovic) August 04, 2013
The above photo is reminiscent of Maradona standing on a crate to hug DelPo at Dubai this year.
DelPo and Isner both gave great post-match pressers, with each player proclaiming the other as a favorite for the US Open. Now, DelPo’s won the USO in the past, so Isner declaring DelPo a favorite for the upcoming Slam is not an outrageous quote. DelPo declaring Isner as a favorite for the USO, however, was quite funny. Given DelPo’s history of declaring heretofore unproven players as “top 10″ material, he could well be coaxed into declaring Julien Benneteau to be a favorite for Roland Garros next year.
Here are clips of DelPo’s post-final presser. He’s chirpy and he also shared fun stories about all the various nicknames he’s been given by fans/media:
Isner also had many kind words for DelPo, sharing how DelPo was quick to congratulate Isner for his title win at Atlanta last week. I’m not exactly an Isner fan, but his comportment during the trophy ceremony and post-match presser has somewhat changed my views of him.
Rogers Cup action is coming up. I will post updates with the draw and a review of DelPo’s opening match against Dodig!