DelPo marked his return to tour with a three-hour, closely fought win over Germany’s Daniel Brands. In a match that featured 3 TBs (DelPo and Brands went a combined 0-15 on BP chances), DelPo pushed himself just enough to win the 3rd set TB and the match, 6-7 (5) 7-6 (4) 7-6 (6).
Brands hit 32 aces and DelPo hit 30 aces in the match. Per ATP, this is the first time that both players hit 30 aces and over in a 3-set match. I hadn’t seen Brands play in a long time, and this was a very tough loss for the no. 111 ranked German, who came through qualifying to earn his place in the main draw at Vienna. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but Brands seems to have lost a bit of weight — his face, normally the vision of Teutonic perfection, looked tired and weary. Then again, it’d be tough not to look disappointed after losing a close match by only two points (in the 3rd set TB). Brands was volleying well and he kept DelPo on his toes throughout the match.
In the first set TB, Brands had 4 SPs and DelPo was able to save three of them. Quite fittingly, Brands then converted his remaining SP with an emphatic ace. That must have been deflating for DelPo.
As expected, DelPo was fairly rusty after a month’s absence from tour. He seemed tentative hitting off his BH side, and he seemed to run around his BH to control rallies with his forehand. While Brands went for points at the net, DelPo stayed put behind the baseline and he was returning serves from far back as well. I think it’s safe to say that this is a sign of rust from DelPo, and that he’ll have a stronger showing against his QF opponent, Marinko Matosevic.
You may remember Marinko from his match against DelPo at IW this year. Marinko is the player who said “I hope you win [Indian Wells]” to DelPo, at the net, after losing to him in R2. This instantly earned Marinko Matosevic high marks in my book. I hope DelPo can defeat the slightly eccentric Marinko in straight sets again in Vienna.
On another note, there were recent reports that DelPo had contacted the AAT to inform them he would not play the R1 Davis Cup tie against Germany. However, those reports were soon retracted. At his Vienna presser, DelPo was asked whether or not he would play R1. He did not comment, saying “I’m not going to talk about this right now.”
For what it’s worth, DelPo and his team were pretty clear about DelPo’s scheduling priorities early this year — they said the quick transition from clay to HCs and back would be too much strain for DelPo’s already injury-prone body. Hence, DelPo did not play the R1 tie against Germany this year. I think it’s quite likely that DelPo will not play R1 next year either. Still, an official announcement has yet to be made.