del Potro d. Montanes 6-2 6-7(5) 6-2 6-1
Del Potro played his R1 match at Philippe Chatrier court, straight after Samantha Stosur’s straight-set win over Irina Falconi. The first two matches at Roland Garros’ central court featured two surprise U.S. Open winners, who have also gone far on the red clay at Roland Garros—Stosur, a finalist in 2010 and DelPo, a semi-finalist in his groundbreaking year, 2009.
The scoreline for DelPo’s R1 match indicates a second-set letdown, but it’s the manner in which said letdown occurred that makes me worry. I’d been worried about DelPo’s form, given his oft-shaky play in Rome, along with the increasingly prominent role his knee injury has been playing.
In many of DelPo’s losses, he starts out strong in the first set. He plays as if he’s red-lining, and many of his shots, particularly the FH, are smack on-the-line and paean-inspiring. However, the 2nd set is where he tends to suffer a lull. I think it’s tough to attribute this to his mental focus, especially given his recent knee concerns.
Let’s take a look at his knee injury yesterday: DelPo’s first and second serves lacked their bite and his double-fault count was higher than normal. Also, he gave up an early break in the 2nd set and then went up 5-2 in the TB, only to lose the TB through Montanes’ on-the-mark shotmaking. Granted, DelPo hasn’t exactly been stellar in TBs recently, but this showing at Philippe Chatrier felt like it owed more to his knee injury than anything else.
Credit to Montanes, who was hitting impressive BHDTL winners. For most of the match, I kept thinking that if DelPo had met a slightly higher-caliber, more mentally sturdy opponent, he could very well have lost the match after the 2nd set. However, Monty’s unraveling at the hands of Fognini last year is a memory etched in the minds of many hardcore tennis fans. Alas, he was not able to redeem himself on that count this year either. Credit also goes to DelPo here, for re-emerging after the shambles of the 2nd set. Whether it was the painkillers given to him during the match, or his wish to at least fight his way to R2, DelPo upped his level and managed to take out Monty 6-1 in the 4th set (after three hours of play).
Afterwards, DelPo was characteristically calm and he did not comment on the knee, beyond saying that he wasn’t worried about it and that he would take the 2 days to recover and be in shape for his next match. He plays Edouard Roger-Vasselin, who actually has a leading 1-0 H2H over DelPo (they played on HCs in Tokyo in 2009). Roger-Vasselin played Nice last week, falling in R2 to eventual champion Almagro. Hopefully, DelPo’s knee will be in good shape to get past Roger-Vasselin. He will have defended last year’s R3 points, if he manages to win his next match.
RG released a fun interview with DelPo, who talks about cheering “like a madman” when his beloved Boca Jrs team defeated Real Madrid in 2000. He brings up his good friend Martin Palermo’s name quite often. When asked to compare Messi’s 73 goals this season to Djokovic’s 40-win streak last year, DelPo says that Messi’s record is better (because no other football player is capable of doing better, whereas Fed or Rafa could match Djokovic).
Previously, DelPo was also asked about his presence at RG Kids’ Day, when he umped the match between Fed, Santoro, Grosjean and Escude. When asked why he didn’t jump around and cheer like the other players, DelPo responded, “I’m a bit more shy than Djokovic. I’m not going to start jumping & shouting as he did in the Children day.”
As you know, DelPo played chair umpire during that match. DelPo also said, “Well, I was a referee, so I was supposed to be serious.” Quit trying to turn DelPo into a happy cheerleader, it’s not his style!