Indian Wells: DelPo Misses Out on the Indian Wells Title

It was an exciting and competitively fought final, but Rafa emerged the victor as he won Indian Wells by defeating DelPo, 4-6 6-3 6-4.


While both players went through their patches of error-ridden play, it was nevertheless an entertaining final that featured scintillating points from both sides.

The 1st set was pretty evenly fought and Rafa showed early on his intent to break down DelPo’s BH.  DelPo’s first serves were missing early in the 1st set, and Rafa broke to go up 2*-0, after a FH attack to DelPo’s BH.

Rafa’s attack on the BH must be a pretty disheartening experience for his opponents, even more so because it’s a seemingly simple strategy that reaps such great dividends.  Given how DelPo was unable to hit his BHs with much pace, the momentum shifted in Rafa’s favor.  While DelPo seemed tentative in the rallies, he also showed his intent to hit through the court with winners.  He hit his stride as he used an insane angle on his FH to break back for 2*-3.  He used this momentum for an easy hold and then hit another tremendous beauty.  He would break to serve for the set.  DelPo was hitting the ball crisply and he gained 3 SPs, courtesy of his great anticipation.  He used an incredible pick-up and dive volley to take the 1st set, 6-4.

In the 2nd set, Rafa went 15-30 down on his opening service game.  He then approached the net to DelPo’s FH, only for DelPo to hit an amazing passing shot. DelPo broke Rafa in his opening service game.

ATTENTION: DelPo was up a set and a break in the final.

That’s when DelPo played a rollercoaster of a service game at 3*-2 to get broken back.  He started by hitting one of the points of the match, a ridiculous pick-up flick that went against the image of tall hitters who are clumsy at the net (it’s worth watching, starts at 3m57s):

However, that point he won also showed that exhaustion was starting to creep up on DelPo.  The dropshot he hit earlier in that rally was poor and it resembled a last-resort “panic shot.  He hit UFEs and a DF, while also getting flustered by Hawk-Eye.  While he added another beautiful half-volley, he would get broken back at 30.  He played some of his best points in the game he lost (this was the turning point of the match).

Rafa celebrated the break back with a fistpump and roar to the crowd, like a movie scene.  It’s startling the way he seems to draw energy to his side of the court through sheer force of will.  Meanwhile, DelPo paid dearly for his dip in form that game.  For the rest of the 2nd set, he fought hard to hold, while Rafa held easily and broke DelPo for 5*-3.  Rafa was zoning while DelPo made too many errors.  While Rafa had the clear momentum on his side, it seemed unfeasible that he could zone like this for the duration of the match.  DelPo would have to step up his level and wait for his openings to cut down Rafa.

DelPo’s opening game in the 3rd set was a big battle to reset the momentum.  He showed his fight by holding after a 10-minute game, although he made it difficult by including a frankly terrible dropper on GP (easily the worst point of the match).  He knew it too:

Photo: Matthew Stockton/Getty

Photo: Matthew Stockton/Getty

While he gritted out a hold, his partly exhaustion-induced tactics did not suffice in the next service game.  He made poor approaches to the net, which provided an open invitation for Rafa to hit the FH pass.  Rafa took the break to go up 2*-1 in the 3rd set.

This was the final momentum push that Rafa needed, as he motored through the 3rd set.  Serving to stay in the match, DelPo played a poor service game to go down 3 CPs.  He was clearly running on empty at this point.  He would save all those BPs to achieve a sort of moral victory.  He may have fumbled early on in the 2nd and 3rd sets, but he was going to make Rafa serve for it.  Unfortunately for DelPo, Rafa managed to serve it out at 15.

Rafa was understandably happy after the match.  He fell to the ground and celebrated with his team.  Meanwhile, DelPo was a picture of quiet anguish.  This is one of the biggest losses of his career, following his loss in the 2009 Montreal final to Murray and the loss to Ferrer in the 2011 DC final.  The camera showed him cringing and shedding tears into his towel.  He’s lost big matches in the past 2-3 years, which usually end with him openly sobbing on the bench.  This time around, he wore the expression of a much more hardened player.  Given the major battles he’d won to reach the final, and how tantalizingly close he’d come to winning his first Masters title in fairytale fashion, it’s easy to see why his face registered a slightly more complicated and dazed expression today.  Watching him kind of tugged at the heartstrings.

Midway through the post-match interview, DelPo’s face kind of crumbled, but he recovered to give a wistful smile when the interviewer reminded him of the insane FHs he had hit during the final:

This may be a sign of his maturation as a player.  One can’t set the goal of winning Masters and Slams without knowing how to deal with losses like these along the way.  This one is a particularly tough loss to take, as DelPo’s performance could probably have won him a Masters at a different event.

He was saying all the right things in his post-match interview on court and it looks like he’ll take away the best parts of his incredible run to the final this week.  DelPo made the greatest impression at IW this year.  He defeated the two reigning hard-court Slam champions back-to-back to reach the final, which was the shake-up that many longed to see on the ATP.  It’s  shame that he may’ve been spent by the two long matches he played in the QF and SF (his left wrist problems with the BH also worked to his detriment).  A win over Rafa to win his 1st Masters would have been a picture-perfect and fully deserved fairytale, but the back-to-back-to-back wins proved too tough an ask.

As such, Rafa walks away with his own fairytale (a slightly more subdued version, but impressive nonetheless).  It’s impressive the way Rafa has come back, in his own way.  He was joyful at the trophy ceremony.  Beating three top 10 players at Masters tournament on his least favorite surface is no small feat.  Even a healthy Rafa would have had a tough time of it, so this is a huge title win for him and he’ll move up to no. 4 in the ranking again.  It’s baffling to think how much Rafa had been complaining about the HCs just a few weeks earlier.  By now it’s clear he is back to being a top tennis player (and a world-class sandbagger too).  In other words, vintage Rafa.

Some journalists went a bit overboard in their praise of Rafa, calling him “brave” for playing and winning on HCs.  That was a bit odd, as I don’t recall a big scary man holding a gun to Rafa’s head, forcing him to play on that surface.  I suppose every narrative requires a bit of embellishment though.  In any case, he’ll certainly be happy with this win, although he will now be skipping Miami (on doctor’s orders) in order to preserve his knees.  His withdrawal from Miami was announced while he played the IW final.


Presser Quotes (updated):

Quotes from DelPo’s presser

One of the highlights of his post-match presser was when he was asked if he would take Rafa with him to meet the new Argentine Pope.

Q.  If Nicola in fact gets you in to see the Holy Father, would you be willing to take Rafa with you?

JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO:  No, just me.  (Laughter.)  I need it. 

In his analysis, DelPo says his serve was one of the factors contributing to this defeat.  He was asked many questions about his thoughts on Rafa’s swift return to the top echelon:

Q.  You were up a set and a break and at the end it’s a loss.  Is it very frustrating?

JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO:  Yeah, but I think Rafa deserves to win.  He plays unbelievable for like an hour there.

Q.  You have been away from the circuit for a long time because you were injured.  Tell us how difficult it is to come back.

JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO:  Very difficult, yeah.  First you have to lose the scare about your problem, and then take matches to feel good.  You can see the matches in Viña from Rafa and see the difference between them and now is like another player. 

Q.  You beat Djokovic and you beat Murray.  What is the next step for you?

JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO:  Beat Nadal, beat Federer.  (Laughter.)  Try to beat all of them. 

But I think I made a good tournament, anyway.  Of course I am a little sad for my match of today, but after maybe tomorrow or after tomorrow I will be happy for this tournament and get motivation for the future…

He then closed out by saying he looks forward to the “caliente” atmosphere and fans in Miami:

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About mariposaxprs

I play favorites with Juan Martin Del Potro, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez, Gilles Simon and the long line of mercurial talent that drives me to despair in front of the screen at odd hours during the week.
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17 Responses to Indian Wells: DelPo Misses Out on the Indian Wells Title

  1. Iram says:

    r u ok?? 😦 I miss ur posts I was expecting a very exciting happy post from u when Argentina made it to the semis. I hope u r well.

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Hi Iram!

      Sorry for my absence, I’d been busy lately but I’m back and will be updating the blog as per usual!! 😀

      Indeed, I was very happy when Argentina beat France! I stayed up last weekend watching that tie, it was such a happy story. I hope you are well too and thank you for checking in!!!

  2. Iram says:

    hi, i know u havent even been able to write on Miami and already JMDP is out? What happened? I didnt get to see the match. I honestly thought he was a good candidate for this title.
    I think its either Ferru or Andy who will get this. 🙂 have a good wknd

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Hi Iram!

      Yea, I’ve been a bit busy this week so I didn’t get around to covering Miami. It seems like I didn’t have to, as DelPo already lost to Kamke 😦

      DelPo ran out of steam. He was leading in the 1st set and he had SPs, but Kamke started playing very well and he came back to win the 1st set and then the match. DelPo has said he wants to rest his left wrist (which is injured right now), so I think he wants to get a bit of downtime before clay season begins. I guess his fabulous run at IW took a lot out of him.

      The time difference w/Miami makes it tough for me to watch many of the matches, but I hope Ferru does well! Hope you had a great time with your niece 🙂

  3. somesuch says:
    Juan Monaco talking about Davis Cup and Delpo? Can anyone help and let us poor non-speakers-of-Spanish know what he’s saying? Thanks 🙂

    • mariposaxprs says:


      Thanks for the link! (and apologies for not getting back to you sooner).

      I’m not a fluent speaker of Spanish (although I understand a fair bit of it). From what I can tell, Pico is talking about the current drama that Argentina’s Davis Cup team have. He seems understanding of DelPo’s decision not to play this year due to his career priorities. He then talks about how difficult it is for Argentina to concentrate their best efforts for the 4 weeks of the year that DC takes place.

      Are you a Pico fan? I hope his season picks up. He’s had a rough start, but hopefully he’ll play himself into form on clay.

      • somesuch says:

        Thanks! Yep, fan of both Pico and Delpo (and Simon… I sure know how to pick ’em, huh?) 😀 Awful season so far for Pico, though he did at least finally manage to win a set in a non-DC match the other day (and no bagels!)… so maybe that’ll help a little? *clings to hope*

        I love your blog, btw! I really enjoy your writing, and not just because you’re writing about a fave. 😀

        Oh, and did you see this on twitter? Hope it works out well, whatever it is.

        vamosdelpofans ‏@vamosdelpofans 1h
        RT ‏@Janie5Jones Per @GuilleSalatino, DelPo has family problems and he flew straight home to Tandil after losing in Miami.

  4. Candy says:

    We know that Delpo would probably have to beat three of Top 4 players en route to a GS crown, but Indian Wells literally showed us how difficult it would be. Back-to-back-to-back VERY LOOONG best-of-five matches against Top 4 players is very demanding. And you may also face some challenges in earlier rounds. (Also, your Top 4 opponents may be fresher because at least they don’t need to face three Top 4 players in a row.)

    Anyway, no doubt there’re lots of positives to take. And we see the progress, so it’s still inspiring. 😉

    Haha. The first pic you posted. See where Rafa’s left hand is. I know he would move it lower and pinch Delpo’s butt if he could (like what he did to Pico). Only he realized it’s not that juan whom he could dally with. 😛

    • mariposaxprs says:

      It really is tough for players outside the top 4 win a Masters and Slam these days. Out of the players outside the top 4 who’ve won Masters (Berdy, Tsonga, Ljubicic, Ferrer Soderling), Ljubicic is the only one who won (at 2010 IW) by defeating two top 4 opponents (Novak and Rafa) along the the way (in the final, he beat no. 8 Roddick).

      DelPo faced tough competition this yr at IW. Muzz, Novak and Rafa were still left in the draw and he had to play all three of them. In that sense, he accomplished what Ljubicic did to win IW (beat two top 4 players). But he had to play marathon matches to get past them, THEN play Rafa in the final (Rafa, who’d gotten thru pretty easily against an injured Fed & then Berdy). So the cards were stacked against DelPo. This is a Masters, so no days off in between matches.

      The positives to take away from this is that DelPo came very close. Also, if he continues to play like this against the top 4, he can win a Masters at other events. Rafa and Fed are out of Miami already. Paris tends to be more of an open field, which is why many outsiders have won in the past. DelPo came close to reaching the final at Madrid last yr too. So there are a lot of good things to look ahead to. With a little luck and good timing, he has what it takes to get one of the big titles!

      Lol at Rafa confusing DelPo for Pico. I bet Rafa wanted to pinch DelPo’s butt like Pico’s, but then DelPo pats Rafa’s head in a “don’t you dare” type of way!!

  5. Iram says:

    UMMMM 1st, You put my blog to shame with ur excellent writeup! 😛 but thank you, it was a good read. I’m not sure what a “sandbagger” is?!

    I think Delpo had one of the best weeks of his career. I think he’s gonna do well the rest of this year. He has the will to win and I think a masters is not that far away.

    Yes Rafa is the same Rafa we hadn’t seen in the last few months (minus his Latin Swing success)! I think if he’s not playing Miami and neither is Roger, Delpo has a good shot in Florida. Maybe Ferru too if he’s emotionally stable now.

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Thank you, Iram, but I like the content on your blog too!!! It’s my go-to source for Armada-related news!

      After DelPo lost to Rafa in the final, I remembered the moment when Ferru lost to Murray in the 2011 Shanghai final. Ferru kept trying and he won the Paris Masters in 2012! That’s good inspiration for DelPo 🙂

      A sandbagger is someone who constantly plays down their chances or acts like they are the underdog, even when they are the favorite. Rafa tends to sandbag a lot against his opponents 🙂 When he played against Nalbandian at Sao Paulo, he kept saying Nalby was the favorite (even though Rafa’s beaten him many times and Nalby was also coming back from injury). I think it’s a tactic Rafa uses to prepare himself for matches — I think it’s kind of funny, b/c Rafa is obviously still the favorite against 98%% of the players!

      I hope DelPo can carry on his form to Miami. He and Ferru are in the same quarter of the draw again! (Ferru beat DelPo last year in R4…I wonder if we’ll get another match-up this year!) One of the reasons Ferru has a tough time at IW is b/c of the dry air, so he might find his confidence at Miami. I hope both guys well!!

      • Iram says:

        oh I know now what u mean. Though I havent heard of that term, my husband always says that about Rafa, that he always picks himself as an underdog even though he’d prolly win it…just to get the pressure off him. I know it’s a tactic, but honestly Rafa shouldnt use this. He may be trying to be humble, but at the same time he shouldn’t act stupid. If you know the favor is in your court, don’t say the opposite!
        I hope Ferru and Delpo do excellent in Miami.
        Enjoy the rest of your week. My niece is in town so we’re gonna go to the Long Beach aquarium! 🙂

        • mariposaxprs says:

          I know what you mean! I get a bit tired of hearing the same thing too, when he keeps saying “The other guy is the favorite for sure.” It’s kind of a mind game. I don’t think he’s trying to be deceitful or anything, but it does get awfully repetitive after awhile!

          I hope you have a lovely week with your niece in town!! A trip to the aquarium sounds like fun and the kids will love it too 🙂

  6. Condolences on Del Po’s loss, but I am so happy he did so well! It was great seeing him take down Murray and Nole. I hope he goes on another tear in Miami and we get to see him holding up the trophy next!

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Hi, Emma!! *waves*

      Thanks, he played some awesome tennis at IW and showed great fight as well. There are so many positives to take away from his performance last week. It’s a shame it couldn’t happen this time around, but congrats to Rafa, he certainly gets a happy story! His fans must be so happy at the way he’s returned so quickly, it’s Serena-like!

  7. Aww DelPo 😦 I refuse to watch any of the post-match interviews! I don’t think I can take seeing it!!

    Excellent write-up! I’m still kinda bummed out about this final, but a couple points:

    1) I’m really proud to be a DelPo fan right now! I mean, it sure must be easier to be a Rafa fan, don’t get me wrong. Wouldn’t it be nice if our man won a masters tourno right after his injury comeback? But, even though he didn’t win, this week really epitomized what’s so special about Juan Martin as a player and why he has so many fans. He can look so passive and yet, he has this incredible fighting spirit. I mean, that was what was so remarkable about his GS win — the fact that he came back again and again and found a way to pick himself up even after mistakes or errors or his opponent’s better play. I saw a lot of that this week. Hopefully it will put to rest some of the commies and journos who somehow have taken it as a truism that DelPo can’t last through long matches and that he’s physically weak or limited as a player. Having suffered through a couple injury problems doesn’t equate to be a wilting flower and I’m glad he really proved that and showcased his ability this week.

    2) I remember reading this interview once where they asked DelPo why Murray couldn’t win a GS, despite being in so many finals, and DelPo had won his first GS in his first final. And DelPo said, sometimes you have to lose before you can win. I hope he can take some comfort in his own sage advice!! Climbing back to the heights of his tennis playing ability has been a long process and while it would be lovely if he could just somehow catapult his way to the top, maybe he has to do it the hard way? Just taking confidence in his own ability to come back from sets down, to play long matches, and to beat the dreaded “Big Four” should help him climb a little higher, I hope 🙂

    • mariposaxprs says:

      It’s tough to even watch the match highlights!

      You’re spot-on about DelPo. DelPo and Rafa have had such different career paths: DelPo’s has been filled with unexpected twists and turns, while Rafa’s career is much more linear. In those respects, it’s def a lot easier to be a Rafa fan (even in Rafa’s “worst year,” he was winning Slams and Masters!) Still, I much prefer being a DelPo fan b/c I love that he has this incredible fight in him, even though he seems calm and measured on the outside. Plus, he’s taken a longer time to get back to where he was, which somehow makes his story more compelling to me. It could’ve been easy for him to get angry and disillusioned when his ranking fell all the way to no. 495 in 2011, but instead he picked himself up and continues to try and improve. He’s had many setbacks since then, but things seem to be coming together now. Personally, that kind of narrative is just as inspirational.

      At the IW final, it was so special the way he saved the championship points (even when he looked so exhausted he would fall the ground). Given how he played awesome tennis and showed so much will and fight in his last 3 matches, I hope journos retire that “wilting flower” theme in reference to him. He deserves more than that!

      “Climbing back to the heights of his tennis playing ability has been a long process and while it would be lovely if he could just somehow catapult his way to the top, maybe he has to do it the hard way?” <— I agree so much with this. I hope he remembers that and that he also remembers the advice he once gave to Muzz! (I remember after their QF match, Muzz gave advice to DelPo on how to win another Slam. LOL, maybe DelPo and Muzz can start trading advice to each other about this topic!)

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