Miami: DelPo & Juan Martin del Pico

Ferrer d. Del Potro, 6-3 6-3

(No photo. I refuse to accept the way he lost this match)

Ferru was on fire this match, playing great offense and defense.  DelPo was not .  I wasn’t able to watch this match — so far, that’s all I gathered from the match reports and tweets.

It wasn’t even a month ago that DelPo defeated world-no. 5-for-a-week Tsonga two times in a row.  Again, this makes me wonder why DelPo scheduled so many tournys in February.  If the point is to make a mark at the Masters/Slams, a more evenly spaced out schedule could have helped him.  Which is not to make an excuse for DelPo’s loss, as Ferru is an oft-underestimated competitor and the rightful owner of his place in the ranking.  He defeated a well-rested DelPo last year in 5 sets at the Davis Cup final, so this match-up was always going to be a tough one.

Flipping through the match on TennisTv (they have a new archive of recent matches), Ferru was playing on par with the level he showed at the London WTF last year.  DelPo did not impose his game and instead stayed planted behind the baseline.  I’m worried because he tends to do that when he’s playing against a top 5 player.  He can play with higher margin against a top 20 player and the bottom half of the top 10.  Against the top 5, however, that extra 0.5% of zing he’s lost on his FHs ever since his return and the play-it-safe-because-I-can tactic doesn’t hold up.  Does he need more confidence or swagger?  There’s no simple answer, because confidence is tricky.  The most intangible of things can spike it to sky-is-the-limit heights or cause it to spiral downwards with disastrous intent, as evidenced by the OH smash DelPo missed.  I’ve seen a clip of that overhead that went outrageously awry.  I’ve stopped watching the match.  There should be a support group for DelPo’s supporters — I am puzzled by the manner in which he lost this match.

DelPo now has a much-needed period of rest before the Davis Cup QF.  The first three months of this year have been great, mixed with a few disappointing showings.  Still, onwards and upwards.  He didn’t play Rome last year, so maybe he has a chance to gain precious points and perhaps reach the goal of obtaining a top-8 seeding for RG.

DelPo’s players’ box is full.  His friend Martin Palermo and even his agent Ugo (UGO!) made their cameos at DelPo’s match in Miami.  Just one of countless silly theories, but maybe DelPo plays better with an emptier players’ box? 

***

On the other hand, credit to Pico for having a very solid showing in Miami.  He defeated Roddick (recent conqueror of Fed), 7-5 6-0.  That’s a bagel!

There is this theory that all French players share one brain and only one of them gets to use it at any one point in time.  Is the same theory proving true for Argentine players?  Pico hit 11 FH winners in the 1st set!  Although Pico probably won’t get his due credit, he has had a solid showing in Miami — he had a hard-won victory over Monfils and then played his persistent brand of tennis to defeat Roddick.

Photo: Getty

I feel this need to stand up for Pico’s honor.  Often, people associate him only with his looks or his hair.  Honestly, I’ve never really found his looks or his hair to be *all that appealing* (which is practically sacrilege to admit).  However, there is a steady industriousness to his style of tennis that can be pleasing-to-the-eye.  At his best, Pico can be fleet of foot, remarkably bendy with retrieving, and consistent with keeping his shots inside the lines.  Maybe I’m stretching the praise too far, but he sometimes reminds me of fellow Argentine Guillermo Coria (who was also a delight to watch).

Can Pico keep up his level against Mardy Fish in the QF?

***

In other QFs, Rafa will play a tough match against Tsonga.  This one seems like it could be a nail-biter and I will be closely watching to see that Rafa pulls through.  Rafa has not yet won Miami, despite numerous finalist appearances.  A deep run here could be a prime opportunity for him to break the curse of losing to Djokovic.

Photo: Getty

***

There is a recent video released with Fed.  It’s f0r his sponsor Gillette and it is pretty fun stuff.  Look at the shirt he is wearing for the interview (starts at 3:37).

I love the way he answers the question about WTA players (he shows his chivalrous side by saying, “Now, don’t you steal my wife”).  Then he pretends to walk with slumped shoulders when his H2H against Rafa comes up.  He’s given a flashy pair of underwear and asked about Rafa’s underwear picking habit.  Fed makes a joke about gifting the underwear to Rafa, after first wearing it.  It’s awkward.  Dorky.  Very Federer 🙂

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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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18 Responses to Miami: DelPo & Juan Martin del Pico

  1. Pingback: Monte Carlo & Houston: Clay Season Starts | mariposaxprs

  2. tennisniche says:

    Good stuff Serdar, enjoyed reading your thoughts.

    Yep Janie I’m hoping for DelPos sake that Clay might be beneficial for his more attritional game style. He should have more time to set up his shots and won’t be quite so vulnerable to sudden injections of pace (the way Roger has hurt him badly in recent matches)

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Yup, the thing is, in terms of easy characterizations, DelPo is somewhere between ball-bashing and being a pusher. And he’s neither — a glimpse at James Blake’s tennis and Roddick’s latter yrs tennis will prove this point. I’d argue that for all the plaudits DelPo’s HC game receives, clay is prob in contention for his strongest surface. But that’s a double-sided accolade — does that mean he’s grounded in the basics of point construction, or does that mean he’s content to be a grinder (when his game proves he shouldn’t be, and he has it in him to attack when he can)? He has areas where he can improve, and I’m not sure an attritional game style is his best bet. As in, DelPo has the point-construction and game to force his opponents to a higher level — which he hasn’t been doing against the top 5 lately, but he has shown he possesses the game to do it.

      It’s an utterly grey area, for his fans. It’s the part that’s most exasperating. It’s pretty much mental/organizational/logistical and I wish I knew more about that area to have a more informed opinion about what he could be doing to improve, although your insights definitely helped with understanding his game plan further!

      • Candy says:

        Interesting, it’s preceived that Delpo’s game suits HC. But now it sounds like his current
        game suits clay even more. And Delpo’s known as an attacker. But now more and more ppl said he’s a pusher (which I dont really want to hear).
        It’s hard to understand sometimes for fans like me who dont have much knowledge about it. But I’m happy I know this blog not too late, so that I can learn more about delpo and his tennis. 🙂

      • Serdar says:

        I’m also really GLAD that i found this little but big-hearted blog! Mariposa is providing a great view into tennis and everything that makes this sport so fantastic and exciting to follow. Precise technical analyses go hand in hand with funny and heart-wearming excursions and i’m just thankful about receiving all this excellently written and nicely assembled information. And the best is: We get to know everything about our dear Delpo!

        Another thing i’m reall happy about is the comment section here. As we know comment sections aren’t the smartest corners of mankind but this one is different. All participants are regardful and kindly! Made me share my humble thoughts…so i really hope for mariposa that more people explore this blog!

        • mariposaxprs says:

          Thank you, Serdar for your kind words. I like that there’s a group of fans who are paying close attention to DelPo— both his game and life off the courts. It makes me happy to know there are others who receive this info with the same interests I have as a fan.

          I hole DelPo sharpens up on those technical elements of his game, and that he has a stronger clay season than last year. We will have to wait and see.how he turns up in Buenos Aires too! I am hoping they can win easily there. I hope for more involved.fans to take part in a nice support group for DelPo’s fans, who have been closely tracking his progress since his return.

  3. Candy says:

    I also think his box’s too crowded, should be limited to 3-4 max.! Especially in Miami, he has enough fans and support (I mean pressure) there. Did you see his spanish post-match interview? I dont know spanish, have no idea what he said. But he looked VERY sorrowful and I felt he had too much pressure around him. But I understand this match meant a lot to him so he’s VERY disappointed.

    Delpo was offensive. But most of the time, he just attacked the baseline or hit the ball right and left. He did hit many briliant shots DTL (which I thought would be brilliant winners), but Ferru brilliantly returned most of them. Yes Ferru was on fire, and Delpo missed many easy shots, smashes and whatever. But this match also exposed lack of variety of Delpo’s game? or at least like u said, he tends to impose play-it-safe-because-I-can tactic. I has been worried about it since dont know when. As u said, he has had not-many-winner/UFE matches since dont know when. So I usually has nothing-show-from-him feeling this year even when he won.

    I want Ferru-Pico SF. I cant believe Fish is going to sucessfully defend his SF points. 😮
    (And Fish and Tipsy are suddenly here again. :o)

    • Candy says:

      lol why the icon looks so happy. Nooo, it’s not my feeling. It’s a surprised *mouth-wide-open* emoticon I swear!!!

      • mariposaxprs says:

        Ha, I completely understand! It’s the mixture of surprise-dread-don’t-know-else-to-do-so-have-mouth-wide-open feeling. May DelPo have an excellent clay season, to necessitate more happy-emoticon usage!!

    • mariposaxprs says:

      I read thru tweets that mentioned DelPo left the court without signing anything for the kids after that match 😦 He really was upset about the result, and I don’t blame him—even if Ferru is a tough competitor, I was hoping for 3 sets in this match.

      It’s good though that DelPo was hitting many shots DTL! He’s looked far stronger when he’s hitting cross-court, but DTLs are always a reliable tactic to surprise opponents. That feels like one area of his game where he could add more dimension.

      Franco & DelPo probably know by now that playing-it-safe against the top players is not a sound strategy. For some time, I’ve wondered what would happen if DelPo just decided to play an “all-out” match, where he went for broke. Even if he ended up losing spectacularly, it would almost feel easier to accept, knowing that he used his attacking skills at every chance (regardless of whether he turns out looking silly for his attempts..)

      Ferru-Pico would be a most-perfect SF in Miami — two players who deserve this spot, esp for the results they’ve achieved so far this week!!! Please, no Fish…

      • Candy says:

        To say Delpo’s game is lack of variety/dimension is not completely fair. He has it, but not impose it most of the time.

        I watched his matches against Fer & Istomin. Lacklustre performance from him all the time. But everytime he faced BP/ SP, e.g. down 0-40 facing 3 SPs in Fer’s match,
        Delpo suddenly played much more aggressively with much riskier game and shots,
        and sucessfully saved those BPs/SPs. I was feel like “if u played like this before, u dont need to save BPs now, yes u saved them all, but really not neccesary to make me (almost) suffer heart attack”! But then after saving MPs, he returned to his boring game, then faced BP, and then saved it with risky agressive game again. -.-

        At that time, I dont understand why he dares to take the risk in the most dangerous moment but not in the safest moment…..It’s not that I want him to go for every shot. But if he played a little bit more agressively in general/ just in some games, he would have had easier matches. Didnt need to turn out to be a close match. I always has a weird feeling of delpo’s current game: offensive but not aggressive.

        But now, I know the problem after reading what u, tennisniche and Serdar wrote below. He may have the problem of finding the balance between aggressiveness and controlled play.

        But yea, onwards and upwards!!! 🙂

        • mariposaxprs says:

          I don’t agree that DelPo is uni-dimensional either. To call him uni-dimensional overlooks the fact that he has solid point-construction — that fact that he can play very well on clay seems more than solid evidence of that.

          I have similar thoughts too (“Great saves, DelPo, but next time, don’t go down 3 BPs!!”) I would def like to see him play more routinely with aggression — it’s not an easy state to reach, and sometimes I wonder if he could player better against a top 5 player if he got used to playing far more aggressively against the lower-ranked plyrs first. I hope DelPo plays against more of the top 15 and the bottom half of the top 10—they can challenge DelPo while DelPo has more than 50% chances to win the match if he chooses his shots correctly (like the way he beat Troicki in Rotterdam, then easily outplayed Berdych … before losing to Fed :() Still, that tourny felt like great progress, which his win in Marseilles confirmed as well.

  4. tennisniche says:

    Onward and Upward indeed! I didn’t see this one but from what you say it sounds depressingly similar to his Fed losses – too conservative and very little thought going into his point construction.

    I like your way of decribing Monaco’s style, ‘Steady industriousness’! There is definitely a workman-like quality to his style.

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Having seen snippets of the Rafa-Tsonga match, I wonder if DelPo has the same problem that Jo had during his match—he hasn’t switched tactics (at least, not visibly to the common eye) once the umpire calls the start of the match. To pin it all on his lack of confidence seems too convenient, yet I can’t really figure out what else it could be. It’s confusing times…but yes, onwards and upwards to the clay season!

      Thks! I think Pico is fun to watch at times. I initially thought he was more of a fluffy plyr, but it was at the USO last yr when he got bageled by Fed, when I noticed he does have a very systematic, workman-like way of playing tennis that paradoxically is nice to watch! Even if there’s no one shot that stands out in his game, Pico does work hard for the wins that he gets.

      • tennisniche says:

        Do you think lack of variety could be a problem for Del Po? I mean contrasting his USO win over Federer to his losses since, it seems he can’t find a middle ground between unloading on every forehand and playing a quite conservative, down-the-middle rallying style. I’m not suggesting he starts chip charging and serve volleying, but just simple baseline adjustments, like recognising that Federer has one of the best inside-out forehands EVER and so knocking the backhand cross court without much angle or depth isn’t gonna get it done! Once Federer has hit that first inside-out forehand, it becomes an uphill struggle for Del Po to get it to his backhand with any kind of mustard on it.

        • mariposaxprs says:

          I think you’ve described it very well—DelPo can play better than he is during baseline rallies, yet he tends to hit down-the-middle with not too much angle. If he were truly unloading his FH, that would be a solid game plan. However, that would also mean adapting to a tactic that Tsonga often uses — the go-for-broke strategy that *is* exciting to watch, but ultimately means Tsonga also loses matches that he shouldn’t be losing.

          Consistency-wise, I think DelPo has a slight edge over Tsonga. However, something’s holding DelPo back when he’s playing against a Fed/top 4 player. It is partly due to the fact that he doesn’t have the instinctive hands at the net, more variety could save him in those instances. But it’s totally within his capabilities to make the baseline adjustments you mentioned—I hope his coaching team are working on that with him!!

          • Serdar says:

            Great read and apt analyses here, thanks!

            This is like my ‘Delpo support group for Delpo supporters’ as i watched the match and got frustrated by the way our gentle giant lost. Didn’t want to know about that match anymore, but now i’m refreshed!

            Tennisniche and mariposa, you’re all right. I think Delpo is still struggling with finding the right balance between aggressiveness and controlled play. The problem reveals most against the top 5 guys, as it happened yesterday against Ferru.

            For the biggest part of last year(in my humble opinion), Delpos game was based on a controlled buildup by drawing closer to the baseline shot by shot and finishing the point with a final stroke.
            Goals and expectations have obviously changed this year and it looks like Delpo is trying to incorporate this to his game. Being aggressive is the best way to challenge the top ranked and finding the right range seems to be the biggest ongoing process Delpo has to go through. And he is…

            I’m also convinced by now that he doesn’t need to invent new gameplans. Little adjustments from the baseline, a well thought and executed net game and things will look better. His weapons are big enough if executed well. Just like tennisniche is explaining, please no down-the-middle rallying styles and no backhand cross courts without much angle or depth.

            But there is this thing i’m thinking a lot lately. I’m missing the steady and natural explosiveness of Delpo and his shots(this point referrs to pre-injury Delpo. I hate the ‘Delpo now and back then’ dabate but this is coming to my mind over and over again).

            Now let’s wish Delpo the bestestest rest he can get and let’s hope for a full recovered Delpo to conquer the clay court season!!!

            • mariposaxprs says:

              Agreed, I think there is a huge risk involved in changing his style of tennis 180 degrees. One area I keep hoping he becomes more adept at is his net game — judging from WImbledon last yr, he is definitely capable of pressuring his opponents by attacking. If he could incorporate that with fewer down-the-middle shots, he could progress farther than where he is now.

              One area where DelPo’s remained pretty steady is his serve — even though he lost in straights to Ferru, he was serving at slightly above 70%. I guess that further highlights why he needs to adjust his baseline game against the top-top players.

              The only part that really bothers me about DelPo-then-and-now comparisons is when others try to write off his success b/c he’s not quite the same now after his return. I wonder too about DelPo back then and now, but it’s probably best to make peace with the progress he’s made so far. And the clay season is a new start, in many ways!!

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