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:
- 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.
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.