The stage was all set for him: two-time Portugal Open champion DelPo had been gearing up for a 3-peat at the scenic 250-tournament that is a surprisingly beloved haven of top tennis stars (former champions include Federer, Djokovic, Gaudio, Ferrero and Moya).
Yet on the Friday before the tournament was due to start, DelPo announced his withdrawal from the tournament, due to a viral illness. Per Sebiastian Torok, DelPo is currently having trouble with a viral disease that affected his breathing and gastrointestinal tract (including fever and dehydration side effects).
DelPo’s communication manager, Jorge Viale, released a statement on Twitter. Viale communicated that DelPo had been in bed with fever and vomiting this Monday and Tuesday. Although he returned to very light training on Wednesday and Thursday, he went by the recommendation of his doctor to the skip the tournament, as his training had been compromised.
DelPo will now be making his scheduled return on clay (after his disappointing showing at Monte Carlo) at Madrid.
Earlier this week, it had been reported that DelPo’s coach Franco Davin would not be traveling with DelPo to the Portugal Open. What does this all add up to?
DelPo’s unexpected decision to withdraw from the Portugal Open may be part of his overall plan to maximize his points at the big tournaments. In the past two years since his comeback, DelPo had picked up a fair number of injuries en route to his title wins at the Portugal Open: He incurred a left rectus muscle injury during his title win at the Portugal Open in 2011 (which led to his MTO during his R1 at Madrid vs Youzhny and eventually led to his walkover against Nadal in R3). In 2012, he defeated Gasquet in the Estoril final, but incurred yet another injury in his knee, which would habitually bother him throughout Roland Garros.
By skipping the Portugal Open, DelPo may be preparing himself for a greater showing at the bigger tournaments, where he can gain more ranking points. DelPo had unexpectedly traveled back home to Argentina, straight after his unexpected loss to Nieminen at Monte Carlo.
That said, DelPo’s withdrawal from his title defense at the Portugal Open adds yet more importance to his reappearance at Madrid. As we saw from his performance at Monte Carlo, DelPo is still struggling to adapt to clay. While the Portugal Open would’ve given him more room to find his feet, a straight return to Madrid requires a far more efficient preparation on his part. So far in 2013, DelPo has lost 4 matches to lower-ranked players (Chardy at AO, Simon at Marseille, Kamke at Miami, Nieminen at Monte Carlo). For comparison sake, DelPo only lost 3 matches to lower-ranked players for all of 2012. He is clearly falling behind in consistency in 2013, although he has added extra volatility to his game to make a bolder play to defeat the top players (as evidenced by his showing at IW this year).
**This post will be updated as more quotes and information are found.