DelPo Defeats Nieminen to go 4-0 in the H2H:
Against Nieminen, DelPo played well enough to overpower his opponent off the court. However, he was far from his best. Too often, DelPo’s point construction broke down at the end and he hit many shots out wide and long. Compared to Tsonga or Berdy, DelPo tends to hit more high-margin shots. I would argue that’s a double-edge factor that helps his consistency, while it slightly reduces his chances of “zoning”and pulling a major upset over the top 3 players. Against Nieminen, however, DelPo seemed to be aiming for the lines. But this game plan quickly backfired and DelPo seemed to back down.
From that point onwards, he had a tendency to hit the ball straight back to Nieminen, even though he had the open court to hit angled winners. I don’t know if his focus was slightly off, as that would be the only reason to explain why he didn’t take more chances to hit winners. However, DelPo still played well behind his serve, as he faced no BPs en route to taking the first set, 6-3.
In the 2nd set, DelPo was able to win more free points off his first serve. He hit a total of 10 aces in the match, 7 of which came in the 2nd set. Similar to his R2 match against Gulbis, DelPo became frustrated at some of his errors (many of which came at the net). He spoke to the chair umpire about what he perceived to be a let call (he repeatedly tapped the net, so the umpire could hear the sound) and he was also later called for another time violation. This means DelPo has received a total of 3 time violations at Rotterdam. He did seem to take his time after some of the long rallies, and this is something he’ll have to be mindful of in his SF match. Although Nieminen had 3 BPs in the 2nd set, DelPo was able to fend them off.
Up next for DelPo is the much-hyped Bulgarian and Nike prospect, no. 41-ranked Grigor Dimitrov, whose BH slices and low balls will trouble DelPo. The 21-year old Bulgarian has long been touted as a rising prospect. Grigor has a very stylish game and he seemed to be in good form during his match against Bagdhatis. DelPo will need to play at a higher level than he did versus Nieminen, especially if Grigor decides to use the BH slice against DelPo.
Surprise Upset as Fed Falls to Benneteau:
The Rotterdam QFs turned out to be eventful, as Julien Benneteau pulled off a major upset of Fed in straight sets. This is Benny’s 2nd career win over Fed, following his 2008 upset over Fed at Bercy. Benny will now face Gilles Simon in the SF, after Simon won his QF via Klizan’s retirement in the 3rd set.
3 of the top 4 seeds are now out of the tournament (Federer, Tsonga, Gasquet). DelPo is the only top 10 player left in the draw, so he should be feeling the pressure to grab the title. He still has a tricky path ahead.
DelPo played Monfils for the first time in R1. In the SF, he will play Grigor for the first time as well. Curiously enough, out of all the top 10 players, the only two Grigor has left to play are DelPo and Fed. After the SF, only “Father Fed” will remain on the list for Grigor.
Grigor defeated Bagdhatis in a close 3-set match, and has registered wins over Tomic and Davydenko en route to the SF. Grigor faced quite a few BPs and missed many chances to convert against Baggy — still, DelPo has his work cut out for him.
It’s often been said that tennis players now require more time to break through to the top 20. Out of curiosity, I looked up the career W-L records for DelPo and Grigor. Grigor, who turns 22 this year, is a 55-57. When DelPo was 21 years old, his career W-L was 138-69. Both DelPo and Grigor turned pro when they were 17 years old.
Hopefully, DelPo will be able to draw upon his past experience to put away one of the promising youngsters.