Rotterdam: DelPo Stays Afloat

DelPo won a very tight match over Michael Llodra, 6-4 6-7 6-4.

In the 1st set, DelPo started out very strongly.  What I noticed most was his movement, which seemed to be springier, and his willingness to charge the net behind his serve.  DelPo was approaching the net like the devil was behind him, chasing him forward.  Combined with Llodra’s poetic serve-and-volleying style, this led to many entertaining points that took place inside the baseline.

I don’t know if my eyes deceived me, but DelPo also looked trimmer, like he had lost weight.  In any case, when he broke and smoothly served out the 1st set, I started to think how well DelPo could play on indoor HCs.  Despite the low bounces, the fast court seems to change his mentality, as he switches up the dial on his aggressive play.  It’s similar to the different tactics DelPo debuted at Wimbledon last year.  DelPo was forced to the net and he volleyed pretty well, showing reflexive skills and a hint of touch.

But then, both players’ level dropped in the 2nd set.  Llodra’s tactics were clear — he was going to yank DelPo around like a ball on string.  There were literally points where DelPo was scampering right and left, up and down the court.  It was a nice change-up, but it also took its toll on DelPo’s legs.  From that point on, he stayed put behind the baseline and relied more on his serve.  Unfortunately (for Llodra), Llodra’s errors meant he was unable to capitalize on the BP chances he had.  For the overall match, there were a combined 12 BPs, and only 2 of them were taken.  The 2nd set went to a TB, which DelPo lost.

The last time DelPo won a TB, he ended up losing a very important rubber for Argentina (against Ferru).  In his next rubber, he lost the tiebreak 0-7 to Rafa.  This means DelPo falls into the category of players who are unreliable in TBs.  Not an encouraging sign.

Still, he held his serve comfortably in the 3rd set.  The deciding set looked to be en route to yet another TB.  Suddenly, out of nowhere (it felt), DelPo hit a return-of-serve winner on his first MP.  That gave him the match:

Overall grade for the match feels like a C+.  Since I’m compassionate, I will instead award a B- (this is how grade inflation works).

The full crowd on Centre Court were loud, as it was “Kids Day” at the tournament.  In his post-match presser, DelPo gave a cheerful answer when asked whether or not the noise bothered him.  He also acknowledged he should have won the match far more easily than he did today:

In the untaped portion of his presser, DelPo also said:

That’s another encouraging sign.  I think the trickiest part for DelPo will be his transition game.  Unlike today, he needs to find a way to transition more smoothly from offensive to defensive play.  DelPo’s surprise opponent in the next round will be Karol Beck, who defeated Petzschner in straight-sets.


The top seeds have been dropping out early from Rotterdam—so far, Granollers and Feli are two seeds who faced early losses at the tournament.  Petzsch and Dolgo are out, while Youzhny has withdrawn from Rotterdam, citing injury.  If Fed beats Mahut in R1, he will go straight to the Dolgo-less QFs.


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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15 Responses to Rotterdam: DelPo Stays Afloat

  1. Pingback: Rotterdam: DelPo Makes His Post-AO Return | mariposaxprs

  2. tennisniche says:

    Thanks for the kind words Mariposa =) I see why there is a concern that Del Po has hit a plateau, because he seems physically 100% and yet still unable to compete with the top 4. But thinking back to 2009, I find it hard to believe that the self belief and confidence he showed at the US Open was an anomaly – he will return to this level, it’s just a matter of when. Would love to see it happen at Roland Garros, I think he has huge potential to do well there, and a fit and motivated Del Po would make for a beastly match up against any of the top 4.

    I noticed Verdasco is one of your favourite players – I have actually written a brief piece based around a match he and Davydenko played a few years back. As a Fer fan, do you agree with my verdict on his game?

    Arienna, regarding the Del Po – Nadal match, I think in these type of encounters where Rafa is up against a big hitter with solid groundies (Berdych, Soderling, Tsonga, Blake), a lot depends on how well his opponent is hitting and moving to their backhand. Everyone knows Rafa has probably the cruellest angled forehand on tourr, which can run these type of big hitters ragged. I think the key for Del Po is that he is 1) Moving well to the BH, in time to get set up for a real strike on the ball and not have to resort to the slice 2) He is feeling confident in either spanking it cross court (ala Djokovic), or hitting it down the line to Rafa’s BH. Obviously anything left short and up the middle is bread and butter for Nadal. One of Berdych’s crucial failings for me is he isn’t good enough when stretched out wide to the BH, witness the number of DTL BH’s he misses against Rafa, and against Ferrer, who leaves a sea of court open down the line when hitting his inside-out forehand.

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Great write-up of Verdasco and Davydenko. Thanks for the link—I posted a comment on your site!!

      I agree that DelPo’s USO ’09 form wasn’t an anomaly—his performances in early ’09 along with his run to the final that year in London show that he was well on his way to achieving top form. I’m really looking forward to the DelPo-Berdy match. DelPo lost close matches to Tsonga and Ferrer last year, so I think this is another great chance for him to finally score a win over a player ranked in the bottom half of the top 10.

    • Arienna Lee says:

      I’d be interested to hear your technical take on Ferrer, tennisniche. Do you have a post on him on your blog?

      • tennisniche says:

        Arienna, I haven’t actually written anything about Ferrer, which is odd because he is the player who I have seen live the most times! I will try to write something soon – FYI the thing which has always struck me as exceptional about Ferrer is not any shot or athletic talent (besides having probably the biggest calves on the ATP), but his immense levels of concentration and shot selection. He really does maximise every bit of his talent.

        • Arienna Lee says:

          He sure does. I’m a bit fascinated by David and his psychological powers of concentration, but I feel like the mainstream media gives him short-shrift as a grinder… they talk about his technique too little and his “will” too much (without really understanding what willpower means). I played competitive tennis as a teenager, but never took it to the next level, so I’d be interested in your take. Also, I’ve never seen him live! Hopefully soon, it does make all the difference.

  3. tennisniche says:

    Good post, interesting to hear Del Po himself say he’s going to experiment with serve & volley on the quick(er) surfaces, he has looked quite uncomfortable at the net in the past.

    • mariposaxprs says:


      Thanks! I hope you enjoyed the overview of DelPo’s match. I think it’s an encouraging sign that DelPo wants to work on his serve & volley game on the quicker surfaces. He showed last year at Wimbledon that he’s capable of finishing points at the net, and he did this many times during his matches there. I feel like it’s a mental switch that he needs to turn on when he’s playing on quicker surfaces—hopefully, he’ll become more comfortable at the net while learning how to transition from defense to offense!

      • tennisniche says:

        Very enjoyable indeed, I’ve bookmarked this blog in fact =)

        It would be nice if Del Potro can add a few more nuances to his game, although he’s shown in the past that his uncompromising power game is enough to win a slam in itself so perhaps it’s not the most important thing.

        To be honest I feel he still hasn’t fully recovered (physically but more so mentally) from his long injury lay off. I think he just needs another year or so of staying healthy and playing regularly before he gets back to his best – then we’ll see a top 5 in tennis to replace our current ‘top 4’.

        • Arienna Lee says:

          Yes, I agree with you Tennisniche, his troubles feel more mental & tactical than physical now. I was also thrilled to hear the man himself talk about about serve & volley! The potential is right there.

          I know I keep harping on last year’s Wimbledon, Mariposa, but I keep thinking that if he could make that big a chance there, why not the rest of the season? I admit to being a little bit nervous for Rafa if DelPo masters the net… but still, I’m rooting for him.

          Speaking of the “physical,” I agree that he’s looking leaner–and fresher somehow? The hair cut even looks energetic! Thanks for the match write up… as you may have guessed, I wasn’t able to see this one and although I was rather hoping the entire match was like the first set, it’s nice to hear that at least the first set was like the first set… sorry about the wording there, long day.

          Andy Roddick tomorrow! And… Julian Benneteau and, um, Steve Darcis. Well, we’ll see how it goes!

          • mariposaxprs says:

            I definitely agree with you that he impressed with his ventures to the net at Wimbledon! It’s def a mental switch he needs to turn on — I would like to see him “decide to play more aggressively” like he did on grass last yr.

            He did shed a few pounds, right? Not that he was ever overweight, but I’d wondered if dropping a few pounds might help with his movement. Though it could just be his haircut talking 🙂 I’m hoping DelPo can make it to the SF, b/c I’d like to see how his game matches up right now against Berdy’s.

            I’m looking forward to your write-ups from San Jose! I’ve caught clips of the matches from there, and it seems exciting. Live tennis is always a plus. I hope to hear about your live experience of watching Roddick and Benny as well. Judging from my Twitter timeline, Benny has a small but dedicated group of fans! 🙂

            • Arienna Lee says:

              I don’t know if he lost weight (from his cheekbones??) or if it’s the hair, but to be frank, JMDP is looking hot.

              I’ve decided that if Ryan wins tomorrow, I just have to get down there and see him on Saturday. I’m all out of sorts that they put him on so early in the day tomorrow–I just can’t sneak out that early! I’m also wondering when I started caring so much about Ryan Harrison’s game… hmmmm. Well, I’ll be updating the blog this weekend for sure!

              • mariposaxprs says:

                Re: JMDP looking hot, I would cautiously agree with you there (as in, 100% total agreement! :)) The cheekbones and hair are something.

                Ryan Harrison seems like he’d be fun to watch live! From what I’ve read, people think he plays with much more variety when he’s playing against someone lower-ranked. When he’s under pressure, he stays pinned to the baseline. Sounds like another player I know! That said, Harrison’s variety is fun to watch—you can call yourself the earliest Ryan Harrison fan 🙂 Also, does he have a nickname? Harrison is too long to type out! Please do share your observations, if/when you see him play!

                • Arienna Lee says:

                  What would be a good nickname for Ryan, do you think? Forty Deuce used to call him “Chino” and while it totally works, it might not be so culturally relevant these days. RyRy doesn’t seem quite good enough.

                  I’ll post my reflections of the Ryan/Milos match soon, but one of the things I like best about him is his variety. An American with variety! He needs to develop the FH into more of a weapon though, I think. He’s no Delpo off that wing. 😉

        • mariposaxprs says:

          Thanks, I’ve bookmarked your site too! It’s great to read your takes on the technical side of the players’ games.

          DelPo is still young, so he can work on adding more nuances to his game. On that note, I think he has made some strides at the net, for example. I hope it bears fruit later this year and next year too.

          I agree with you that DelPo hasn’t fully recovered either. I think his comeback hit a bit of a plateau, on both the fitness and mental fronts. He falls short when he’s playing the “big” points. I’m hoping he can slowly but surely work his way back. Given the fitness-based nature of today’s game, he’ll def need to improve that area too!

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