After a torturous series of rain delays, DelPo defeated Garcia-Lopez, 6-3 6-7(5) 6-4 7-6(7). The total match time was 4 hours and 21 minutes. The two players shook hands at the net after 9pm in the evening, close to eight hours after they first took to the court.
Where to start with this match? Earlier this week, DelPo and Fed ran into each other in the locker room. The two shared a friendly chat, at which point Fed asked DelPo when he was playing his first match. DelPo said he was playing Garcia-Lopez, to which Fed smiled and gestured, as if to say “No big deal.”
Fed’s smile and gesture turned out to be a bit of a jinx. Correction, a major jinx.
The match started out simply enough. DelPo broke GGL’s serve at love and managed to serve out the first set, 6-3. GGL’s nervous service game at the start of the match was a critical factor to the outcome of the 1st set.
The 2nd set was more close. DelPo had numerous BP opportunities but GGL did well to defend and absorb the pace of DelPo’s shots. The 2nd set TB was a tad disappointing, as DelPo fell behind and allowed GGL to dictate the rallies. GGL would level the match at a set all, after taking the 2nd set TB 7-6(5).
Despite losing the 2nd set, DelPo was playing very aggressively with his FHs and he even brought out his trademark grunt on the shot (it feels like awhile since we last heard him grunt when he hits his FHs). For the better part of the match, he was also hitting his BHs cleanly and using it to dictate the points — the rare BHDTL even made an appearance. DelPo broke to take the early lead at 3*-2 and GGL took an MTO for a left thigh injury. Then the rain started to fall again, which meant play was suspended right before DelPo had to serve for the 2nd set, 5*-4. After the delay, DelPo cleanly served out the 3rd set to take a 2 sets to 1 lead. Despite some cringeworthy errors from DelPo (including a failed overhead smash and a mishit on a FH sitter), he was able to stave off the pressure and hold on the big points.
GGL was visibly limping again and he called for the trainer again. He wasn’t permitted another MTO for the same injury, so instead he had a lengthy discussion with the trainer. Despite the injury, GGL was going for his shots. If anything, the pain in his leg seemed to motivate him to go for his winners. He was also able to chase down the winners that DelPo was attempting to hit. GGL’s body language was also noteworthy. He was openly fistpumping DelPo’s errors and he disputed several calls with the umpire.
DelPo did not convert his 1st BP chance on GGL’s opening game in the 4th set. He would then hit a DF to concede the early break to GGL. DelPo seemed frustrated, both by the match and GGL’s frequent calls for the trainer — GGL had also run to his chair to change his racquet when he had BP on DelPo’s serve. From DelPo’s perspective, GGL was stalling and using gamesmanship to gain an advantage. Meanwhile, GGL saved another BP to consolidate his lead at 4-1 in the 4th set.
During the changeover, GGL called again for the trainer. That’s when the bickering started. DelPo pointed his finger at GGL and asked, “How many times are you going to call for the trainer?” He complained to chair umpire Ali Nilli, who told him that this would be GGL’s last visit from the trainer. GGL angrily stood up to defend himself (while his left thigh was being massaged by the trainer). For a few minutes, GGL and DelPo exchanged words. DelPo then gave GGL a glare as he walked back to the court.
The tension was high. Thankfully, DelPo redirected his anger to break back and level the match. The 4th set TB turned out to be a rollercoaster. DelPo had two MPs. GGL hit a shot that was called out, but Hawk-Eye showed it to be just on the line. They had to replay the point. Looking back, this moment was funny because DelPo had a bit of towel fuzz on his face. As he watched the screen, he consciously wiped away the towel fuzz, as he waited for the Hawk-Eye verdict:
DelPo then hit a long FH (after beautifully setting up the point) and GGL held at 6-6 in the TB. DelPo would break GGL to finally take the match, 7-6(7). Here is a clip of MP and DelPo’s very exuberant celebration afterwards:
American James Blake announced his retirement this year. He played the last match of his career at the USO, which ended in heartbreaking fashion, after he lost a 2 sets lead to Ivo Karlovic. Fellow players DelPo, Bogomolov and Murray were on hand to greet Blake in the locker room for his last match:[tweet https://twitter.com/ATPWorldTour/status/372942621145968640 align=’center’]
Former USO champs Meet in R2:
Up next for DelPo is 2001 USO champ Lleyton Hewitt, who defeated Brian Baker in 4 sets. This meeting of former USO champs will take place on Arthur Ashe stadium today.
Hewitt is a very tough match-up for DelPo, as he has the defensive capabilities and the patience to challenge the big man. One encouraging stat is that while DelPo is 2-2 in the H2H against Hewitt, DelPo has also won both of their matches on HCs. Hopefully, the historical pattern will repeat itself today.
The main issue is whether DelPo can hit his BH at full-strength against Hewitt. DelPo lost to Hewitt in 3 tight sets at Queens — I remember that Queens match because DelPo would fall behind whenever he became overdependent on his BH slice. He won that 2nd set at Queens because he finally found the right balance of BHs and slices.
However, DelPo’s left wrist issues seem to be troubling him again. After his win over GGL, DelPo said he has been having trouble with his left wrist and that this will complicate his match against Hewitt.
This year, the media have heaped positive attention on DelPo. This feels well-deserved, after the consistency he showed in 2011 and 2012. Here are links to the recent pieces about DelPo — both are well worth the time:
- The Once and Future King: Can Juan Martin del Potro — or anyone else — join tennis’s Big Four? (Grantland)
- King of the Court: Former US Open champion Del Potro on Boca Juniors, Bruce Springsteen and Prison Break (Daily Mail)
Aside from the profile pieces, several off-the-court items have been brought up at this year’s USO. First, ESPN Deportes reports that DelPo is no longer officially signed with Wilson. Apparently, DelPo gave up a 7-figure contract with Wilson, due to the troubles he has faced in finding a new racquet that he is comfortable playing with. Currently, DelPo has 4 versions of the old K-factor model, which he has been using for over 4 years. At some point, he will have to make a decision on which new model to use.
The second major news item concerns DelPo’s agent, Ugo Colombini. In a press conference with Spanish-speaking journalists, DelPo confirmed that he is no longer working with agent Ugo Colombini. Colombini will now be working exclusively with Andy Murray.
This raises several questions — is the news about DelPo’s Wilson contract in any way related to the termination of his partnership with Colombini? What will happen to DelPo’s Nike contract, which will reportedly come to an end in December 2013? For now, there are no reports on whether DelPo will find a new agent or a sports agency.
For the moment, DelPo is very much a Nike player. In training, he showed off a t-shirt with the slogan, “Faster and Stronger Than Last Year”:[tweet https://twitter.com/JuaniCeballos/status/372788762935177217 align=’center’]