del Potro d. Cilic, 6-3 7-6(7) 6-1
In the battle of big, hairy and leggy giants, DelPo pulled through yet again, defeating Cilic by the straight-sets scoreline of 6-3 7-6 and 6-1. This pulls his H2H against the Croatian player to 7-2.
In the opening set, DelPo kept his serve well-consistent (68%) and he punished the slightly more inconsistent Cilic serve. He also defended his second-serve quite well, winning 83% off the 2nd serve in the first set. After breaking, DelPo hit a nose-dive volley in front of the net, to hold for 5-3. That’s when Cilic’s nerves betrayed him, which allowed DelPo to break and take the set.
The 2nd set seemed to proceed in similar straightforward fashion. DelPo was serving well, and he had used a sweetly angled FH to break for 4-2. Given the open questions surrounding the state of DelPo’s knee, I was surprised by the ease with which he seemed to be cruising past Cilic. Alas, my concerns soon proved to be true, as DelPo began to play much more passively. He was standing as far back as possible to receive the Cilic service—any observer of Cilic would know that despite the Croatian’s height, he’s one of the least effective tall servers. DelPo’s court positioning was thus worrisome. Cilic broke back and the set went to a TB, which DelPo has not been comfortable with this year. Prior to the TB, there was a delightful sequence where 6 consecutive shots involved a dropshot. DelPo emerged the winner in most of those.
On to the TB: True to his past record, DelPo went up a mini-break in the 2nd set TB, only to concede it. Cilic then went up a mini-break, to serve for the 2nd set, only to be broken again. Finally, after a flurry of seemingly never-ending exchanges, DelPo took the 2nd set on his 8th SP, winning the TB by the scoreline of 9-7. After an 82-minute set.
Having seen the dramatic portion of the match that seems to accompany DelPo everywhere this week, I hoped for a less volatile 3rd set. DelPo must have felt this unease among his fans, because he broke early in the 3rd set to go up 2-1. From there, he held and broke again, to close out the match and guarantee his passage to R4.
DelPo looked genuinely effervescent and joyous after his win. There was this light-hearted quality to his low-key victory celebration that (oddly) gives me hope for the upcoming match against Berdy
Compared to his matches against Monty and Roger-Vasselin, DelPo did not seem as bothered by his knee. True, there were some points where he would stop and wince over his knee for a few seconds. However, the only time he called for the trainer was after he’d gone up a break in the 3rd set—it was only to re-apply the knee tape, which had slipped over his hairy knees. Given the circumstances, that’s a slightly positive sign.
Overall, he was 6/14 on BPs this match, while Cilic was 1/1. People can take heart at his 72% first-serve percentage, as it means his knee is still working properly enough to hit a good serve.
DelPo’s R4 opponent will be Berdy, the guy he lost to in a close match at the Madrid SF. This match-up will be exciting, possibly a contender for match of the R4s. For DelPo, it’s match that’s loaded with meaning and importance. DelPo’s loss to Berdy in Madrid, following a previously successful run against the bottom half of the top 10, was tough to shake off. Furthermore, the Davis Cup SF between Argentina and the Czech Republic takes place in September. It’d be a significant re-boost to DelPo’s confidence if he could restore order and reclaim his winning ways over Berdy. For what it’s worth, Berdy also had trouble overcoming Anderson in R3, winning in the decider. Berdy also seems to have a minor leg injury concern (since Dusseldorf), although the full extent of it is as yet unknown.
Despite Berdy being taken to 5 sets against Anderson, he managed to hit 57 winners and 36 UFEs. This will be a tough match-up for DelPo. Luckily, he has two days of rest to prepare for the match that determines the quarterfinalists. Vamos!
In other news, the Gasquet-Dimitrov match proved to be engaging and turned out some very interesting points. Here’s one point that made the news — it’s a seriously must-see point: a 32-shot rally that ends with Dimitrov on the ground, cramping and barely able to stand up, while Gasquet vomits on the other end of the court. I disagree with the majority view that this point is evidence of everything that’s wrong with both players. I’m not sure how anyone could blame Gasquet or Dimitrov for reacting the way they did to the point. It’s not as if people can summon themselves to vomit or cramp.
It sure makes for an interesting story, when you claim an under-performing player is creating his own problems — the visual evidence of the vomit/cramping certainly aids that view. Does it make sense though, ultimately? I say it doesn’t.
In any case, the draw has quickly weeded itself out and now there will be much less tennis to observe. There have been some fun surprises from players like Benoit Paire, Andreas Seppi (who just defeated Verdasco in R3), Adrian Ungur, Kevin Anderson, and all the like. From now though, it looks like the familiar faces will once again frequent the 2nd week (possibly including Milos, who is annoyingly starting to become a familiar name). One player I’m happy to see in R4 is Stanislas Wawrinka. He toughed out a truly interminable 5-set match against Gillou—surely, he deserves a medal of sorts for that?
Let’s see what happens on Sunday and after — it’s crunch time!