Wimbledon: Stayin’ Alive

What drama.

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Photo: Dennis Grombkowski/Getty

Just look at his face — tremendous joy and relief.

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Photo: Getty

DelPo breaks a 4-match losing streak to Ferru to reach his first SF at Wimbledon.  He defeated Ferru in straight sets, 6-2 6-4 7-6(5).

This marks DelPo’s first Slam SF since his USO win in 2009.  This is arguably his greatest result on grass court, up there with his Olympic bronze medal last year.  He’s now reached the SF at 3 of the 4 Slams (the AO is still missing from his list) and he is only the third Argentine to make it past the QF at Wimbledon (joining the likes of Nalbandian and Sabatini, who both went one step farther to reach the final).

More than anything else, it’s a great result after the struggles DelPo has faced earlier this year, with the two-month break he had to take because of the virus.  Reaching the SF is also an achievement that’s been well on its way, given his extraordinary consistency in 2011-2012, and his strong showing in the early part of 2013.  He had a chance and he took it.  He’s reached the SF at Wimbledon this year without losing a set.

The circumstances under which he won the match makes it special.  DelPo showed plenty of heart and courage to tough out this win in unusual circumstances.  This explains the tears he showed during the match and afterwards as well.

***

Battle of the Walking Wounded:

An hour before the match, Ferru cut short his pre-match warmup session to consult a doctor for his injured ankle (he’d been playing on an injured ankle for most of the week).  Given Ferru’s injured ankle and DelPo’s injured knee, this was billed as the match of the walking wounded.

Nonetheless, both players showed on Center Court for a chance to reach their first Wimbledon SF.  In front of a crowd that included Rod Laver (who was seen langorously applying sunscreen to his face) and Sir Alex Ferguson, Ferru started the match by serving.  That’s when DelPo fell down hard in Ferru’s opening service game.  DelPo had 2 BPs on Ferru’s serve, but DelPo fell down after he lunged for a shot.  He ended up hyperextending the same left knee he had injured in his R3 match against Levine:

This fall looked much worse than his earlier fall in R3 — his knee bent back in the same way and his ankle rolled.  DelPo was down and he was obviously in a lot of pain.  The trainer and officials immediately attended to DelPo and all signs looked like he was going to retire.  When he got up, I honestly thought he was heading to the net to shake hands.  Instead, he sat down on his chair and took an MTO, and as luck would have it, he was attended to by an Argentinean kinesthesiologist.  The kinesthesiologist advised DelPo to play 1-2 games to test his condition.  DelPo also took anti-flammatory pills from the trainer.  For an excruciating few minutes, TV showed DelPo with his head in his hands and tears in his eyes.  Franco and Martiniano looked distressed as they watched from the sidelines.  Even DelPo’s gruff agent, Ugo Colombini, had deeply furrowed brows.

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DelPo gingerly made his way back onto court to resume play.  While he still had BP on Ferru’s opening service game, Ferru seemed a lot more aggressive after DelPo’s fall.  This is completely natural, as the law of the competitive jungle says the best time to step on your opponent’s neck is when they’re slightly immobilized.  Ferru held and DelPo next faced the task of holding his serve.  The general consensus on Twitter was that if DelPo was broken and he lost the 1st set, he would retire from the match.

At the start, Ferru seemed intent to test DelPo’s movement.  DelPo was unable to run after balls he would normally chase after, so it seemed Ferru would gain the upper hand by exploiting DelPo’s challenged movement.  However, DelPo brought out strong serves to hold.  He would then hit a beautifully angled FH winner to break Ferru’s serve to take a 2*-1 lead in the 1st set.  Perhaps the early lead gave DelPo the confidence he needed to play through this match, as he consolidated the break with an ace to go up 3-1*.

It has to be said, that while DelPo was clearly struggling with his movement due to the painful knee, Ferru was also not at 100%.  Ferru’s ankle injury had bothered him all week, which may account for some of the unusual errors he made on his own serve.  In my opinion, Ferru also didn’t take full advantage of DelPo’s mobility issues.  Instead of running DelPo around the court, he seemed content to play straight to DelPo and engage in long rallies.  Perhaps due to his injured knee, DelPo showed more intent on going for aggressive winners and hitting with depth and pace.  As a result, DelPo emerged the winner in many of these rallies.  When Ferru hit 2 loose errors to face 2 BPs, DelPo stepped in and took the double break for a 5*-2 lead.

DelPo had said in his pre-match interviews that the only way to beat Ferru was to be super-aggressive.  He hasn’t always played quite aggressively against Ferru (2012 Miami, 2012 Wimbledon and 2012 WTF RR are matches where I felt DelPo could have used different tactics to emerge on top).  Perhaps the knee injury properly forced him into this attacking mindset.  DelPo showed nervous signs when he was serving for the 1st set.  He had to fend off 2 BPs, one of which he saved with a beautifully flat FH winner.  He took the first set, 6-2.

DelPo’s FH deserves so much credit for this win, as he rifled it past his opponent and hit it comfortably from anywhere on the court.  Although he often reached 15-30 or 0-30 on Ferru’s serve, he was unable to break until 4-4, when he hit a sharp return of serve that would give him the break for 5*-4.  Unlike the first set, DelPo had no trouble serving it out this time.  He now had a two-set lead over 4th seed Ferru.

In the 3rd set, Ferru grew more comfortable with his game and he used his BHDTL to catch DelPo out of place.  DelPo wasn’t making inroads as easily onto the Ferru serve, while his own 1st serve % started to fall a bit.  The 3rd set went to a TB, which turned out to be a mini-drama fest of its own.  DelPo went up a double mini-break to serve at 4*-1, only for Ferru to recoup both of them with some fine shotmaking.  Back at 4-4, DelPo went up another MB when he hit a return-of-serve right to Ferru’s feet.  However, DelPo’s lack of a first serve hurt him again, as Ferru immediately recouped that minibreak (that was the 3rd minibreak they traded back and forth).

DelPo saved his finest tennis for the last two points in the 3rd set TB.  He hit this ridiculous running CC FH that curved just inside the line.  He had MP on Ferru’s serve.  After an impressive rally, DelPo followed up that ridiculously good FH with the most casually flicked around-the-net running FH.  He won the match.  It was swoonworthy tennis and an explosive end to a toughly fought match.  Here is a clip of the match-winning point:

The Tower of Tandil won the match and he promptly fell onto his back in a moment of pure, unadulterated glee.

Photo: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

I love the dazed expression on his face, like a kid who’s just walked into a water park.

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Photo: Getty

It was a delight to watch, as the crowd cheered on the victor who had overcome a very tough early challenge.  Ferru, to his credit, was the picture of sportsmanship, as he rubbed DelPo’s tummy at the net and congratulated him:

Photo: GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images

DelPo will next face Djokovic, who has also reached the SF without dropping a set, which marks the first time in the open era where a Wimbledon SF features two players who have not lost a set.

DelPo defeated Djokovic in straight sets to win the Olympic bronze medal at the London Olympics (on grass) last year.  However, Djokovic won their latest encounter at a Slam, at the USO QF, which was a very competitive and high-quality match that Djokovic still won in straight sets.

In a slightly encouraging sign, DelPo’s serve has not been broken in his last 3 matches.  So far at Wimbledon, he has averaged 69% first serves and has won 81% of the first serve points.

Meeting top seed Djokovic in the SF of a Slam is a new challenge, but DelPo can take haert from their last meeting, when he beat Djokovic in 3 sets at the Indian Wells SF.  DelPo says his knee is fine — so far, there haven’t been any reports of serious ligament damage.

 ***

Post-match presser & Quotes:

  • ESPN Interview: DelPo sat down with ESPN to discuss his match.  He said he was close to retiring but was encouraged by getting the early break in the 1st set.  Could it be that his already heavily taped knee might have saved him from further damaging the knee when he fell?  He was in chirpy spirits and his eyes shone brightly when the analysts complimented his match-winning FHs, which he agreed were similar to the FHs that won him the USO in 2009:

I like when DelPo says, “I made a fantastic forehand” (shrugs) about his MP.  He may seem calm and laid back, but he is no shrinking violet.  Also interesting is DelPo saying how he needs to use the DTL shot more against Ferru.  This will also be the case when he plays Novak in the SF.

“I was worried because it was the same movements like four days ago … The doctor says they can’t do any more with my knee. I had the tape, a very tight tape, and that helped me to move a little bit, but nothing more.

“I didn’t want to retire in the quarters for the first time at Wimbledon against Ferrer. And that’s the reason for continuing play. The doctors give me good anti-inflammatories. I survived my serve in the beginning of the match. I broke his serve early, and that give me confidence to take advantage in the beginning of the match.

“Then I played [with] confidence, was careful all the time with my movements. But in the end I did 100% and I’m so glad to go through.”

“I will need to be 100% or 110% against [Djokovic] … He’s the No.1. He’s a former champion here. It’s going to be a more difficult match for me like today. But if I’m okay, if I do everything good to be ready for my next match, I will be excited to play against him.

“I remember the match during the Olympics last year on the same surface. But this time the pressure is different, I know. But I will try to be ready and do my best.”

The interview is quite a funny read.

  • Franco Davin spoke to L’Equipe about DelPo’s focus on challenging the top players.  DelPo’s upcoming SF against Djokovic will be a challenge — at the very least, it will be a great opportunity to continue to finetune his game against the very top players:
[tweet https://twitter.com/markalannixon/status/352667375625187330 align=’center’]

 

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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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12 Responses to Wimbledon: Stayin’ Alive

  1. Iram says:

    OMG there was a horrible airplane crash that had departed from S. Korea. I think there were minimal casualties. I’m sure most ppl where u r must have been worried.
    *Hey Iker is gonna have a baby with his gal. I say it’ll be a cutie. 🙂
    So sorry that delpo lost. I was really rooting for him. And OMG that 4th set was amazing. I thought of u when he won that 😉

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Thanks, Iram! The news of that plane crash was so scary to hear, esp since that’s a trip I’ve taken a few times before for school! Thankfully, there were minimal casualties, but it was still scary news. As far as I know, nobody I know has been involved or hurt and I hope it stays that way.

      Omg I heard the Iker baby news and I was wondering if it was true or not. Good to hear he’ll be a papa some day. His kid will be so adorable. So far, Xabi Alonso’s kids are the cutest, but maybe Iker’s kid will be a rival in cuteness? 🙂

      I’m still shocked over the entire DelPo-Djokovic match. Wow. So sad he lost that one, but he played some *amazing* points. I can’t believe I survived watching the 4th set TB!! I’m glad he showed everyone he can play top ball.

  2. Candy says:

    Hurray!!! 😀 Before the QF, I really didn’t know what to expect because I hadn’t watched a single match of Ferru and didn’t know how serious his ankle/ foot problems were. But looking at Ferru’s scorelines, I hoped Delpo would be able to get at least one set. I mean, even Dodig could take a set off Ferrer. If Delpo couldn’t, it would be humiliating. /o\ So happy he got through, especially after he injured his already-injured knee again. /o\

    Really, the “guts” and the “courage” are HUGE. 🙂 Anyway, I’m still worried about his knee. He still hasn’t had a full check yet. But again, this is GS. Tennis players (esp. top tennis players/ GS contenders) work so hard every day, what’s for? GS glory! So at this point, in SF, nothing can stop a player (unless he can’t move at all). When there’s chance to win BIG, no one would give it away easily. Same to Delpo. I just hope it wouldn’t turn out to be a very serious injury.

    The injury forced Delpo to be even more focused and play more aggressively. In the past, he tended to be very tentative and allow Ferru to play those rallies. Not only against Ferru actually. We said many times that Delpo was not aggressive enough and tended to hit the ball back to the opponent or indulge in those rallies. In this match, he’s more focused to play his games and take the initiative.

    Anyway, I think Ferru could have made Delpo run more. A bit surprised he didn’t. Maybe it’s partly because Delpo took the initiative and didn’t allow Ferru to play his games. (Ferru’s ankle problem may have hindered his movement for a bit too.)

    It will be a much tougher match against Nole. He’s so fit right now. He said he’s ready! A fit Nole with a lot of confidence is scary. He will make Delpo run more. I hope Delpo’s knee can hold up. I hope Delpo will serve and hit forehand as well as he did in the last match (if not better).

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Yup, I think Ferru’s been a bit burnt out after his finalist run at Roland Garros. That’s completely understandable, as DelPo went through a pretty significant “burnout” after his IW finalist run. That said, I think DelPo deserves all the credit for his win. Even though he’d lost to Ferru 4 times in a row, their last match was very competitive (at the WTF RR last year). In that sense, DelPo was learning how to play Ferru. This latest result should give DelPo the confidence he needs to keep playing like that! The fact that he did so with an injured knee makes it that much more compelling.

      So much heart and courage 🙂 I was a bit annoyed at the mainstream media who said they were surprised that DelPo fought so hard. DelPo’s been fighting hard for his whole career! Pfft.

      Djokovic will probably challenge DelPo’s lateral movement a lot more today. DelPo should play this SF like he has nothing to lose. The big serves and more importantly, th forehands. I want high-quality play!! So nervous right now, 15 minutes before the match starts!! >_<

      • Candy says:

        Delpo definitely deserves all the credit for his QF win. I think I was lucky I had missed the most depressing moments at the beginning of the match. I only realized how close he really was to retiring after the match when I saw back those 5 mins of “drama”. Luckily, he broke early and eventually won the match. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have this compelling SF. That’s what you want: high-quality play! (Talk more on the next post ;))

        Btw, there’s one thing I forgot to say yesterday: His backhand was very solid in QF (and in SF). It still might not be as good as it used to be before he got the left wrist injury. But there’re some great BH winners. Also, his solid backhand helped him a lot in his point constructions. So I’m glad to see his left wrist is fine now and he can hit his “normal” BH properly. I missed his BH. Many people have already forgotten his BH was good before the left wrist injury. I’m annoyed when I see people say Delpo’s BH is awful or when they’re surprised Delpo can hit great BH. 😉

        • mariposaxprs says:

          The first 10 minutes of that QF were so dramatic. You’re lucky you caught the “better parts” that came later! 🙂

          I totally agree with you that his BH was much better at Wimbledon. Ever since IW, I’ve been looking at whether he’s playing his BH more conservatively. Given the virus that struck him almost right after IW, it was tough to tell whether the left wrist was still bothering him — his few matches at Monte Carlo and Rome didn’t really tell me anything about the state of his left wrist. At Queen’s, he played a great 2nd set against Hewitt, but then he started hitting all those BH slices in the 3rd set and I worried if the left wrist was still bothering him. But in both his Wimbledon QF and SF matches, he was pretty solid off his BH side. I was practically fistpumping when he hit all those BHDTLs against Novak in the SF *sniff*

          DelPo’s BH was a crucial part of why he was able to challenge Federer to a 19-17 deciding set at the Olympics last year. His FH was solid, but it’s the way he flattened out his BH that kept him going in the rallies last year. Similar story this year. DelPo’s BH was actually his more consistent side before he built up his FH. He’s solid off both wings! If he keeps working on his BHDTL, he’ll be playing to his full capabilities.

  3. sambria says:

    Ngl, I wanted him to pull out after that second hyperextension. I’m such a worrywort, I didn’t want him to do any more damage to that knee. With that said, this is probably my second favorite Delpo victory. He showed so much fight, determination, and heart to even hang in there. That fact that he won…i’m just a proud fan right now. Friday is house money for me-if he wins holy crap yeeees. If not that’s ok. Go home and get that knee healthy. It’s kinda all good (plus we’ll probably get lovely Delpo-Nole hug pics and I’m all for that).

    Between this and the emotion from male JJ (sorry, the first and foremost JJ to me will always be Jelena Jankovic-WTA stan for life here) today was a really great and emotional day in tennis. I like all the semifinalists (women and men) left in the draw and hoping for some good matches. Good luck to all of them.

    • mariposaxprs says:

      I’m worried that he hasn’t had an MRI on the knee yet. The second hyperextension did *not* look pretty at all. The knee is prob worse now. I wonder if maybe the fact that his knee was so heavily taped at the beginning meant that his knee wasn’t as extended the second time around?

      I thought he would retire from the match too. He had 2 BPs before he fell down and when Ferru held anyway, I thought DelPo would get broken right away and then he’d eventually retire. But what actually happened was such a genuine display of heart, courage and determination. He doesn’t get enough credit for his grit, even though he’s shown it on big stages before (like the Olympic SF last year). He was grimacing at the start, but you could see how the scoreline was giving him confidence and spurring him on to play. And he played amazing tennis — maybe it was the pained knee that forced it, but he was aggressive and he did what he could to stretch Ferru out wide and end the points quickly.

      I loved DelPo’s post-match celebration. After all that worrying, I wound up grinning at my computer screen for like 10 minutes. I must have looked like such an idiot, hahah 🙂

      I’m glad there’s a day of rest before the SF match. A healthy DelPo would have liked to challenge Novak, but I guess we’ll have to see how DelPo’s knee holds up. For what it’s worth, Novak did have his hands full for awhile when he played Berdych (he was down a double break at one point, although Berdy eventually gave up the lead). That’s a tiny glimmer of hope for DelPo!

      I’ve loved male JJ’s progression through the draw as well. His post-match celebration and that bear hug between him and Kubot made for such a lovely scene. Raw emotions. I def understand your original JJ love 🙂 She is an awesome entity unto herself. Male JJ will have to find his own name soon!

  4. audiesgirl@aol.com says:

    A grand victory, lets rejoice in the moment. Delpo has finally defeated his nemesis Ferru and under the most difficult conditions. After that last fall I was sure he had his bags packed and plane ticket booked to go home. He’s got his game together at last, his best since IW, proving yet again the power of the Argie Patron Saint of Tennis. He was damned lucky to have had a medical doctor on site to administer those “magic pills.” Off court he seems to be having a very good time, too, spotted in his box today were Facundo Pieres, drop-dead hot Argie polo star, and other new faces besides the usual equipo of Franco, Ugo and Marti. Pieres tweeted about a big party on Sunday; maybe that gave Delpo the boost he needed to play so well. It’s nice to read the Argie press actually exuding praise in their reportage and the fans down there actually having nice things to say after so much bashing over the Davis Cup.
    I have a money question: if Delpo’s knee isn’t up to playing, in terms of getting paid does he show up anyway and retire rather than forgoing the match?

    • audiesgirl@aol.com says:

      Did I say Pieres was hot? How about one of T&C’s sexiest men of 2013? He and Delpo make quite a pair of chick magnets. http://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/facundo-pieres-sexiest-men-2013-photos#slide-4

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Yup, we have to enjoy these good moments. First SF at a Slam since 2009! ON GRASS. AGAINST FERRER. This is unexpected but marvelous.

      I genuinely thought he was going to retire after he fell. When he got up to walk to his chair, I thought he was throwing in the towel. I’m surprised he didn’t need more trainer visits after that fall in the 1st game…he called the trainer 2-3 times when he fell in the match against Zemlja. Perhaps the knee tape he already had padded the fall, or at least prevented his knee from jerking back as much as it would have without the tape? Those were scary times. I’m amazed he was able to move like he did.

      I saw the drop-dead polo star in his box! Argentinean journos on Twitter kept referring to Pieres, but I assumed it was the older Pieres, who is also a polo player. I didn’t know he had a young son who’s also into polo. I Facundo Pieres tweeted encouragement to DelPo! That’s nice to see. https://twitter.com/facundopieres/status/351694806105333763

      Some of the Argie journos were talking about that…they commented on all the criticisms DelPo faced when he was sick…yet now everyone’s full of praise for him. It’s just human nature, what can you do! This SF result should at least placate his most vocal critics though.

      The money isn’t an issue b/c you get paid for the last round that you won. Since he won his QF, he’s earned a quarterfinalist’s prize money. It sounds like he wouldn’t withdraw unless the knee injury turns out to be super-serious. I fear he probably will have long-term problems w/the knee, but playing a SF at Wimbledon is once-in-a-lifetime. Considering the crowd that will show up for the SF, I’m guessing DelPo will play….it’s a tough decision he has to make right now…

      But let’s focus on the good parts and the good times!! 🙂

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