Unseeded Frenchman Jeremy Chardy pulled off the biggest upset so far at the AO, defeating 6th seed DelPo 6-3 6-3 6-7(3) 3-6 6-3.
This was a shocking result, given the fact that DelPo reached R4 at all four Slams (he reached 3 QFs) in 2012. In his entire 2012 season, DelPo’s only losses to a lower-ranked player were to Baghdatis (in Sydney), Stepanek (in Toronto) and Llodra (in Paris).
After falling two sets down at his R3 match against Chardy in 2013, DelPo managed to level the match to force a fifth set. However, he played a weak service game at 4-3* and was broken. Chardy served out the match to win.
DelPo played below the level he’d shown in his previous matches against Mannarino and Becker. While Chardy was playing very well, DelPo was also a noticeable step slower and not nearly as aggressive. In rallies, he kept using his BH slice, a shot that tends to put him on the defensive. This may have given time for Chardy to wind up on his FH, which Chardy used to devastating effect here.
Chardy has quite an errant ball toss on his serve, which shows he’s not a strong server. He averaged 58% first serves for the match. Yet DelPo did not capitalize on Chardy’s weakness, as he played return games that were notable for their poor quality.
DelPo faced problems on his own serve as well. I’d noted in his match against Becker that he seemed to get pinned behind the baseline whenever Becker hit a return-of-serve to his feet. Chardy proved spectacularly adept at this tactic, as DelPo was repeatedly caught off-guard on his serve. This may be the crucial factor in explaining today’s defeat. While DelPo was not playing aggressively with his FH/BHs in the first two sets, he was also repeatedly troubled on his own serve (Chardy converted 5/17 BPs, while DelPo converted 2/7).
- The trainer visited DelPo twice during his changeovers. While there was no noticeable problem, he did chat with a doctor during the change of ends. I don’t know if the daytime heat played a role in DelPo’s loss (he’d played his previous 2 matches in late afternoon/early evening), but whatever problem he had is so far unknown.
- Delpo didn’t play a warm-up tournament this year. Last year, DelPo played Sydney before the AO. Although he played the Kooyong exho this year, I wonder if his lack of a formal warm-up tournament hindered his chances here in Melbourne. In many ways, DelPo’s loss to Chardy reminded me of his loss to Gilles Simon in R3 at the 2011 USO. In his loss to Simon, DelPo had shown a similar lack of aggression against an opponent who was capable enough to hang with him in rallies.
Given the considerable outcry that followed his decision not to play Davis Cup in 2013 (to pursue his own goal of winning a Slam and contending for the top ranking), this loss is a blow to DelPo’s momentum, following his strong late season surge in 2012. However, if he stays the course and presses on with his commitment to rise up the ranking and contend for Slams, there’s little reason (aside from this one result) to doubt his professed goals. DelPo is still the steadier of the so-called 2nd tier (consisting of himself, Berdy, Tsonga, Tipsy and Gasquet) when it comes to Slam performances over the past 2 years.
Q. Is that your biggest success so far?
JEREMY CHARDY: I beat Murray last year in Cincinnati.
But here it’s something more because Australian Open, third round, I play a top player. It’s a big win for me. And maybe the best of my career.
It’s so charitable of Chardy to state that his win over DelPo was greater than his win over Muzz in Cincy last year. Allez Jeremy (I think).
Q. What was your tactic today?
JEREMY CHARDY: My tactic was very simple: I play slice with my backhand and I try to play short slice because like this he has to come in the court. After, with my forehand, I can go full power, so…
It was nothing else (laughter).
Well-played, Chardy. This is what the whole match felt like (laughter).
Q. Were you feeling okay? You had a chat to the doctor at one stage … What was that about?
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: No, yeah, I’m feeling okay … No, just to talk a little bit with the doctors about my body. But not any problem.
In conclusion, nobody knows anything about why DelPo called for the trainer during the first two sets.
Q. What have you got coming up next? Can you talk about some of your goals for the rest of the year?
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: I’m going to play in Europe: Rotterdam, Marseille, Dubai.
The goals are the same. The season just started. This is my first tournament. I would love to be in the top five as soon as I can. But it’s a long road, and all the players are playing really well. But, anyways, I will try to do it.
Dubai is not in Europe, but DelPo is scheduled to play his round of indoor HC tournaments starting in Rotterdam. He is defending a finalist performance in Rotterdam, a title in Marseilles and a SF in Dubai. The Dubai points don’t count towards his ranking, which means DelPo may do well to skip Dubai in favor of preparing for the IW and Miami Masters swing.
Funnily enough, when DelPo was asked about the depth of men’s tennis, he answered “Jeremy plays really well and he beat me. Maybe Tomic has the chance to do it with the match tonight.” Taken out of context, DelPo’s quote may seem like a sly dig against Fed. Given the circumstances of DelPo’s loss today, I’d say it was just a throwaway comment. Nothing here.
UPDATE: DelPo was quoted in Spanish press
Sebastian Torok (@sebatorok) January 19, 2013
“I am angry and my blood is boiling. But Chardy did everything he had to do. Now I will go back to training and work on my game.”
I will be updating my post as I go along. Please feel free to contribute with your opinion, in the meantime.