Right now, defending champion Marin Cilic is playing his SF against Lleyton Hewitt. This means the potential SF between doubles partners Cilic and DelPo was not to be this year. Hewitt defeated DelPo in three sets in the QF, 6-2 2-6 6-2.
Hewitt is a tough out on grass (and it showed), but DelPo’s form was also up and down throughout the whole match. DelPo got off to a very slow start, as he made errors and was wrong-footed on many occasions. He played very passively and hit 2 consecutive DFs to eventually get broken. He would later be broken again while serving to stay in the 1st set.
In the 2nd set, however, DelPo sprung to life. I’d noted before that in his R2 match against Malisse, he was having trouble mixing up his BHs with the BH slice. During the 2nd set against Hewitt, DelPo was hitting cleanly off both wings and he did a superb job of mixing up his BHs with the slice. Numerous times, Hewitt was on the back-foot during the rallies, due to the depth and pace of DelPo’s shots. It seemed like DelPo had found his rhythm and his strategy for dealing with Hewitt. The 2nd set recalled DelPo’s performance last year at the Olympics. DelPo would go up a double break to take the 2nd set, 6-2, and level the match.
For some mysterious reason though, he was unable to maintain this level of play. If he was playing at “Level 8-9” in the 2nd set, he dropped to “Level 3-4” in the decider. Gone were the first serves that would help him set up a decisive point. Gone was the confidence that allowed him to hit the lines and push Hewitt behind the baseline. He resorted to the more tentative play he had shown in the 1st set. Hewitt went up an early break and then he would break DelPo to win the match off an impressive volley.
Overall, DelPo had a decent run at the Queen’s tournament. His form heading into Queen’s was questionable at best, given the long layoff he’d had due to the virus he had. He was definitely rusty during his R2 win over Malisse, but an easy win over Dan Evans in R3 seemed to give him a confidence boost. While DelPo wasn’t at his best during his match against Hewitt, the fact that he played well during the 2nd set is encouraging for his prospects at Wimbledon. It’s quite a relief that no further complications from the virus have occurred this week at Queen’s (at least none that I’ve heard of). DelPo is confirmed to play the Boodles exhibition next week, so he will get some match play before Wimbledon.
In his post-match presser, Hewitt noted that DelPo had made many improvements to his grass-court game:[tweet https://twitter.com/DelpoFriendClub/status/345570363536732160 align=’center’]
The hope is that DelPo can further recover his form and gain consistency. It seems like all the parts of his game are coming back together, but he needs to fine-tune his tactics. The Boodles exho could be that extra opportunity he needs to gain confidence and form before Wimbledon.
One of my favorite photos from this week at Queen’s was DelPo after he beat Malisse in R2. He looked triumphant, like had overcome a tough test. May he have more moments like these in the weeks ahead!
Also, here’s a throwback photo from R2 at 2009 Wimbledon, where Hewitt defeated DelPo. DelPo did a famous “net jump” during the match, after which he tried to high-five Hewitt. Hewitt did not return the high-five (I thought that was incredibly rude of Hewitt. In any case, DelPo and Hewitt are still close friends, or “mates”):
DelPo-Cilic also lost in doubles to Benneteau-Zimonjic, despite being up a set and a break. It’s a pity that none of their doubles matches were streamed this week.
Thankfully, one fan captured a photo of Cilic and DelPo during their doubles match, as they waited out a rain delay: