Way Back When: Del Potro Defeats Cilic at the 2002 Orange Bowl

This post is partly inspired by a very well-written piece, titled “Kidspiration,” (definitely worth a read) by Kait O’Callahan on the Tennis Australia website.  She writes about her visit to the Optus 14s Australian Teams Championships, where she saw 14-year olds hit and play.  Below is an excerpt I especially liked from her account of the tournament:

I’ve always found watching young people play serious tennis inspirational. I love watching their mannerisms – did that Queensland boy just pull at his shirt like Andy Roddick? – and their emotion. They’re raw, at this stage in their tennis years, and they play that way. Far too many of them are overly aggressive; you see many balls land in the top of the net and hear the accompanied cries of frustration.

I’m also reminded of the fearlessness of youth. Gael Monfils antics are the norm as kids skid over the court, racquets toppling, lanky limbs falling to the ground. A kid hobbles past with an ice-pack strapped to his knee. It’s no wonder.

Her article reminds me of Del Potro’s 14s Junior Orange Bowl title in 2002, when he defeated Marin Cilic in the SF.  Below is a short clip from the match.  Cilic’s slight frame and casual service motion are close approximations of the Cilic of now (he always looks so fragile to me).  You can see DelPo was a comically serial “Vamos-er” as a 14-year old, cracking his adolescent voice (I counted 10 “vamos-es” in the 3 minute video clip below).  In 2002, DelPo’s languorous manner behind the baseline is there, although he hasn’t yet developed the huge back swings he takes on his forehands.  His on-court demeanor is a marked change–the mini-elf is a hilarious study in intensity.  I feel even if no one attended his match, he’d have done enough cheering for himself to push on:

You can also see the “fearlessness of youth” that O’Callahan observes in juniors, when watching mini-DelPo’s positioning for his return of serve.  He stands well inside the baseline to return Cilic’s 2nd serve–it makes me wonder, at what age do pro tennis players start to retreat behind the baseline for their returns?  What a difference nine odd years make.  Happily, DelPo’s also polished his manners over the years–he no longer exults at his opponent’s unforced errors and double faults.

For Dolgopolov fans, here’s a link to a junior match that Dolly played as a 14- or 15-year old.  The guy had a serious backhand slice since his teen years.

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About mariposaxprs

I play favorites with Juan Martin Del Potro, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez, Gilles Simon and the long line of mercurial talent that drives me to despair in front of the screen at odd hours during the week.
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9 Responses to Way Back When: Del Potro Defeats Cilic at the 2002 Orange Bowl

  1. hotel oradea says:

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  2. Pingback: Miami: DelPo to Meet Cilic, Some Other Guy Wins | mariposaxprs

  3. queridorafa says:

    Great videos! Such a time warp–it doesn’t seem like that long ago, and yet, it was! Mini-DelPo’s running forehand looks especially familiar. Who knew he was such a Vamos-er?! Perhaps this explains some of the long-standing friction b/t him and Muzz…
    Love seeing Alex rock the reverse forehand b/f it was cool… 😉

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Haha, that’s what I like about Youtube! There will always be Youtube evidence to see how their game changed over the years. Mini-DelPo had a Bobby Sod-like way of fist-pumping in his opponent’s direction while yelling “vammmooos.” Maybe I’m too easily amused, but I found that part so funny. Dolly’s junior video is pretty amazing–his attitude on the tennis court seems as relaxed then as it is now!

  4. Pingback: Way Back When: Del Potro Defeats Cilic at the 2002 Orange Bowl … « Tennis Community

  5. ariennalee says:

    I’ve always thought the same thing about Cilic: he looks so delicate! And I worry about that backbend… I see he has yet to develop it in this video, although you’re right, everything else is about the same, including those double-jointed knees. And Delpo! He must have been popular with the girls… the necklace, the cool kid hair! When did he have his growth spurt, it must have been a big one when it came. Cilic dwarfs him here. Anyway, thanks for the fun off-week post, going to check out a young Dolgo now!

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Thanks! Cilic’s backbend has become scary in recent years, huh? It’s strange b/c he’s another tall player who (somewhat like DelPo) can’t seem to get the expected projection/speed on his serve.

      Watching DelPo as a young’un, I can see where the “elf” nickname originated. There’s another clip of DelPo playing as a 15 y.o. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=qjSDAqU3hqw) He’s a fair bit taller then–I guess he was a bit of a late bloomer in the growth spurt area?

      Mini-Dolgo was compelling to watch! I kept searching for resemblances to his current service motion–I can sort of see a resemblance, although I’m not sure if I’m just making it up in my head 😉

      • ariennalee says:

        Cilic’s serve reminds me of 10th grade geometry problems. All the angles are a bit too acute… or something like that.

        That Delpo video is great, he’s starting to develop that forehand backswing in this one!

        Yes, mini Dolgo is definitely compelling to watch! He makes exactly the same face now, but his backhand was even more extreme then. It was fun the way it was shot, with the camera only on him because you could see all that slice (and I was imagining a very frustrated kid on the other end) and then *wham* when he got the forehand he was waiting for.

        • mariposaxprs says:

          I wonder why Cilic sticks with the acute angle on the serve. Not that the serve is an easy motion to fix, but he’s clearly not getting the speed he could attain with his height. I think they interviewed Goran Ivanisevic awhile back and he was saying that Cilic is too stubborn and not willing to change his game. That’s a little bit “Ouch” to hear. If I had the power, I’d put Cilic and DelPo in a two-week serving boot camp, hah. Fed could attend in disguise as well 😉

          I kept wishing the camera would show the opponent as well, b/c I wanted to see where Dolly’s slices were going (along w/seeing the frustration on the opponent’s face!) You’re right, his BH def is more extreme as a junior–I just noticed that. Wasn’t his father a famous coach in Ukraine? I wonder if he was coached in his youth by his father…

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