Post Oz-Open Swing & DelPo’s Spring Plans

This is a two-part post devoted to 1) The current 250-level tournaments this week and 2) Del Potro’s outlook, following his Oz Open performance:

Part I:

  • Gael Monfils will play doubles with his younger brother Daryl Monfils at the Montpellier tournament in France!  The Monfils brothers are entered in the doubles draw as WCs.   Daryl last played at the Geneva Challenger in Nov. 2011, and he recently drew attention for voicing his disapproval of Gael’s defensive tennis game.  For what it’s worth, Daryl is currently one month away from his 19th birthday (he is not yet listed in the ATP ranking).  At the same age, older brother Gael was ranked no. 399 in the world (on Aug. 1, 2005).  Hopefully, their doubles matches will be streamed for public consumption — how do you say “Game Onn” in French?
  • Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu scored his first win in 15 months at the Montpellier tournament, over Cedrik-Marcel Stebe.  Mathieu had been out with injury (his last match was at the Basel Open in Nov. 2010).  He apparently shed a few tears after his win.  Welcome back!  For those unfamiliar with PHM, here’s an impersonations clip the Roland Garros site released, which includes a short PHM impersonation (starts at 1:15).
  • Pico Monaco and Juan Ignacio Chela are the top two seeds at the Vina del Mar tournament in Chile.  This tourny takes place on clay, the surface of choice for the ARG-GER Davis Cup tie that starts on Feb. 10 in Germany.  Top Germans Florian Mayer and Philipp Kohlschreiber are playing the Montpellier tourny (on HCs) for practice.
  • Germany announced its official DC team squad: Florian Mayer, Kohli, Philipp Petzschner, and Tommy Haas.  Apparently, Florian Mayer is not fully 100% confident after the hip injury that led him to withdraw from the Oz Open.  Haas will be brought along as Germany’s alternate, to sub in for Mayer should Mayer feel unprepared for the tie.  Argentina’s lineup is as follows: Pico Monaco, Juan Ignacio Chela, “El Rey” Nalbandian, and Eduardo Schwank.  DALE, ARGENTINA!!
  • Del Potro will be jump-start his HC season at Rotterdam (starts Feb. 13).  He also committed to his title defense at the Estoril Open in April.


Part II: 

Del Potro’s Oz Open Reviews — 

The media coverage of DelPo’s Oz Open performance has been uniformly negative.  Honestly, I think it reflects more on the journalists/”tennis experts” who hyper-inflated their expectations of DelPo (which they were wrong to do).  It’s odd to see how quickly journos switched from saying “Incredible, DelPo jumped 480 spots up the ranking!” to “DelPo’s never going to be the same tennis player he was in 2009.”  My only response to them would be, “Hold your horses.  The year has just begun.”

DelPo is currently ranked no. 10 and he is a full step behind the top 4, maybe even a half-step behind the no. 5-8 ranked players.  Newsflash: It’s also difficult right now for any player outside the top 4 to pose a serious challenge on a major stage.

I think it’s important for DelPo to score wins over the likes of Monfils, Tsonga, Berdych and Ferru before he can be seen as a “dark horse” for Grand Slams.  This is what I thought even before the Oz Open started this year.  So I’m mainly relieved that Wertheim isn’t a stock-trader.  Otherwise, he would have lost large sums of money betting large on DelPo — only now is Wertheim trying to off-load his JMDP shares.  The media as a whole should have been more prudent with their “purchasing of JMDP shares” from the start.

A few months before his USO triumph in 2009, DelPo joked that he was “el mejor de los malos,” or “the best of the bad ones.”  I think DelPo has to work himself into that role again before journos consider him a veritable threat.  It’s a slow and steady, but definitely achievable process that I intend to recount in full detail.

In any case, people should try to erase the marker board and look at DelPo as he is now.  I hope journalists throw out the tired storyline of “Who is the real del Potro?  The one in 2009 or the one at present?”  They’re both real, Tignor.  It’s that straightforward.

Yes, there are obvious comparisons between 2009 and 2012 that need to be made.  DelPo’s weaker serve and his sometimes shaky mental strength are two areas that stand out to me.  So far, DelPo’s comeback may not have been the fairytale Phoenix-from-the-ashes-within-a-year story we hoped for.  Still, DelPo reached the QFs at the Oz Open, which puts him in the top 10 for the first time in 16 months.  Maybe it’s not a headline-grabbing achievement, but it’s steady progress so far.  Given Tipsy and Fish’s recently shaky form, DelPo also has his chances to reach the top 8, if he does well during the spring.

Quite ironically, if there’s one review of DelPo’s Oz Open that I agree with, it’s the harshest review that ESPN writer Ravi Ubha gave.  Ubha writes,

“What a huge disappointment. Del Potro’s inferiority complex against the top three has returned. Why, exactly, did the Argentine offer to replay a point against Federer when he was right? Too nice. He needs to become more ruthless. Del Potro barely put up a fight against Fed.

While I don’t fully share Ubha’s massive disappointment in DelPo, I agree that DelPo’s shaky confidence is his current weakness.  DelPo seems to lack the mental will to challenge the top 3.  I don’t see that as a permanently damaging problem though.

Once again, if DelPo set a short-term goal of beating the likes of Monfils, Tsonga, Berdych and Ferru first, that could give him the confidence he needs to challenge the top 4.  I think Ubha is the only writer so far to have correctly framed the problems DelPo faces right now.  I’m not in full agreement with writers like Wertheim and Tignor who seem to draw too many broad conclusions from DelPo’s Oz Open.  By their logic, I should never watch another Tsonga match, since he performed well below his seeding at this year’s Oz Open.


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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14 Responses to Post Oz-Open Swing & DelPo’s Spring Plans

  1. queridorafa says:

    Nice post! Particularly enjoyed “El Rey” Nalbandian. Is that the only name he answers to these days? 😉
    Totally agree with you re: DelPo. Hyper-inflated expectations followed by inevitable “disappointment” followed by broad, all-encompassing character judgments (that will immediately be reversed if he wins a Masters or Major). I get that that’s what they have to do to have their “stories.” But it doesn’t make it any less annoying (or inaccurate in many cases!)

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Thanks! Haha whenever it’s Davis Cup time, Nalby becomes “El Rey.” I don’t think he would answer to “El Príncipe” 😉

      Yea, I’m mostly annoyed by the journos who go all doom-and-gloom about DelPo’s future. For goodness sake, he’s still 23 years old! Even if he doesn’t have the “injury excuse” anymore, that doesn’t mean his road to the top is any easier this time around. I guess that’s just the way they like to frame their stories though…

  2. Arienna Lee says:

    The Monfils duo lost! But I hope we get to see them in action at some point… or little (but really, NOT so little) Monf in a singles match soon. I’m so curious to know what he’s like. Straight-laced, no-nonsense, I’m guessing 🙂

    “The best of the bad ones!” Oh, Delpo. I like that he has a sense of humor, but I don’t like to see the inferiority “complex.” I wonder what his fitness regime is like compared to the other guys? He doesn’t look as “built” but with the new sculpting craze sweeping the ATP, it’s sometimes hard to tell whose fit to play and whose fit for the beach.

    I agree with you, DelPo’s shaky confidence is unsettling… but not really a “massive disappointment,” because it’s not exactly news.

    Since you mention him in your post, I’ll take a moment to celebrate… Pico won a match!

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Exactly! Just once, I’d like to see Daryl play a televised match to observe his game, his temperament, his similarities/differences to older brother Gael. It’s sad that the brothers lost to Davydenko/Kunitsyn 😦 Davydenko defeated DelPo at the WTF final in 2009, and now he defeats the Monfils bros on their 1st doubles outing. It’s official: Davydenko is the killer of hopes and dreams.

      As for DelPo, there was an old Argentinean news article that was written after he lost early at Wimbledon in 2009. Basically, they interviewed his agent, who was bemoaning DelPo’s lack of competitiveness. I think that problem is perhaps resurfacing again, although it’s not just that — he has work to do on his fitness as well.

      Just once, I wish DelPo had access to the same army of fitness trainers Andy Murray has. I definitely feel like there’s more work that can be done there. DelPo still has the same independent sports agent he had since he was a junior (he’s not signed w/the big agencies like IMG or Octagon), and he’s also stayed with the same coach and physio since 2008. I guess those are the people he feels most comfortable with, and they *have* done him a world of good. Still, if he has disappointing results later on this year though, it could be a relevant question, whether or not he needs to find people who can pinpoint and train him to overcome his weaknesses. Esp since fitness seems to be a decisive factor these days…

      • ariennalee says:

        ha. I saw an article that stated that Murray still needs to improve his fitness. When are people going to learn that that’s just his body language!?

        DelPo can have a similar down-and-out look to him too… I wonder if he subtly resists fitness training? When he’s not rushing to and fro on the tennis court it tends to look like he prefers moving slowly. Or even sitting still. 🙂

        • mariposaxprs says:

          There’s his body language, but I think his height makes it difficult for him to be a “fitness phenomenon.” He’s never been that type of player. I think it’d be better if he hones his attacking skills and uses them to shorten points.

  3. Serdar says:

    Thank you for the accurate analysis on Delpo! I even think that Delpo is competitive enough right now against Berdych, Ferru and the likes. I’m always thinking of the Vienna final against Tsonga in late October. Delpo started well but quickly became a victim of his own stamina and mental strength. Currently i see him in a much better and stable shape than in October. As you mentioned, the season has just begun and Delpo clearly gives indication to be determined to work hard!
    And i’m really looking forward to your thoughts on the Delpo thing!

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Thanks! I think the Vienna final and the Davis Cup final, when DelPo lost to Ferru, was a good indication of his form. Those two matches showed that DelPo was definitely competitive and playing at Tsonga and Ferru’s level, but he needs to work on his fitness and stamina if he wants to beat them on a big stage.

      DelPo’s form at the Oz Open looks promising and I think he can definitely polish the edges of his game, so that he’s the heavy favorite whenever he’s playing someone like Tsonga, Berdych, Ferrer, Monfils, Fish, etc. His goal is to be “the best of the bad ones” again! I’ll be cheering for that in the next few months 😉

      • Serdar says:

        I especially like Delpo because he is a(let me put it in Feds words) ‘good guy’. He really looks like, on the court and off the court. A big humble man, who really seems to be happy to be part of this sport and global show. At times he just wants to hug everyone, as you already cited, hahah!
        My main question is: Does he have to develop a so-called ‘killer instinct’ on the court?
        Does Delpo have to bare his teeth on the court, to be more competitive at important moments and stages? Does he need a change in his basic attitude to refine?
        I think a significant increase of his confidence(in cooperation with his fitness) and sense of achievments will make him a very serious competitor on every stage, grand slams, masters etc.. I just wouldn’t argue on that competitiveness issue too much. On paper he just looks more gifted than Ferru, Tsonga, Berdych and Fish(everyone cherished!). His strongest opponents like Nadal and Fed certified Delpo on having real chances to win more Slams and being number one in the world. It will be really nice to see what happens in the future.
        But your point on fitness and Delpos team is very interesting and profound. He’s getting 24 years old this year and maybe he independently has to take some necessary and painful decisions to progress, if his results aren’t satisfying. He’s just too talented to only be a one-slam-wonder and to be 10 in the world. I tink he knows and that could be the key for the future.

        • mariposaxprs says:

          Yea, I’m not sure if his “lack of competitiveness” is a major issue. I guess because he seems like a good guy, people like to use the arc that he doesn’t have enough killer incstinct. I think it’s his fitness issues that make it seem like he doesn’t have enough competitive fire. I think that’s the area where he might show improvement in the near future. If he can do that, while defeating the “second-tier” of players, then he can become more confident and competitive.

          It should be interesting to see how these next few months turn out. To think this time last year, DelPo’s was ranked in the mid-200s and facing terrible draws at tournaments…he’s definitely in a better place now to keep improving!

          • Serdar says:

            Thank you for very much sharing your thoughts!!
            I feel that an exceptional win (e.g. against Fed especially) would cause a lot for DelPo, as confidence and fitness on court is inevitable to gain success. A big wind could be a catalyst.
            What do you think on what would be a realistic and possible goal for DelPo this year and if you already have a notion, what should be his long term objective? What is he really capable in your opinion?
            I’m just wondering at times…

            • Serdar says:

              …what the media and critics is really expecting of him and how they frame it.

            • mariposaxprs says:

              Yea, it’s tough to tell. I wish DelPo would win a Masters tournament this year, whether it during the summer HC swing or the indoor HC swing. Also, that he puts in a strong performance on clay and that he defends his R4 appearance at Wimbledon, or perhaps does one better by reaching at least the QFs there. To be a bit greedy, I’d also wish for a SF appearance or two at Slams? Mostly, I hope he can stay injury-free so that he can build up momentum. I feel like he had a series of small injury scares that last year that kind of checked his momentum.

              • Serdar says:

                OOOOOOOH YES!! Would be great to see DelPo winning his first Masters tournament and to enjoy his game on the big stages at Grand Slams! I’m optimistic and my fingers are crossed!
                I think Indian Wells and Miami will be crucial to see where DelPo’s road will go for the rest of the season. But principally i’m full of hope about DelPo’s clay court chances! How about semis at French Open?
                And you’re totally right. No injuries, pleeeeeeeeeeze!

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