Washington: DelPo Wins His 15th Title

DelPo wins his 3rd Washington title (his 15th career title), after defeating Isner in three sets in the final (3-6 6-1 6-2)!  This is his 2nd title in 2013 (his 5th career title at the 500-level).  He’s now won 6 of his last 7 finals (the one he lost was at the Masters level at Indian Wells this year).

A week ago, he was kissing Minnie Mouse at Disney World.  Today, he plants a kiss on the Citi Open trophy.  It’s always a welcome sight:

Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Good:

This week in Washington, DelPo played with more swagger.  To summarize, he defeated promising youngsters Ryan Harrison and Bernard Tomic in his first two rounds (due to rain delay, he beat them both on the same day).  Then, he added two pigeons to his coop by defeating Kevin Anderson and Tommy Haas (he’s now 5-0 in the H2H over both players).  In the final, he manhandled Isner.

Well, he may not exactly have manhandled Isner (I’ll get to that later), but I employ dramatic license here in order to make my point.

DelPo played great tennis during his matches against Tomic, Anderson and in the latter half of his final against Isner.  Against Tomic, what impressed me was the way DelPo would step up his aggression.  He was stepping well inside the baseline to return Tomic’s 2nd serves.  He was seen practicing his return of serves this week in Washington and he played like someone who wanted to be a sterling returner.  He readily punished Tomic’s serves out wide.  DelPo’s aggression was visible and it put him ahead in the rallies.  You could easily sense when DelPo “chose” to raise his level.  DelPo was serving well and everything went according to script.

Against Anderson, DelPo faced a higher-quality challenge.  Anderson was much smarter than Tomic with his placement of serves and this duly put DelPo on the backfoot during some of the rallies.  Anderson was serving well and DelPo was serving well too.  DelPo seemed superior off his groundstrokes, but Anderson would come up with aces at the right time to wipe away the BP chances.  Then, DelPo showed solid confidence and clutch play to win the 1st set TB, 7-6(0).  He hit a great overhead BH volley to earn 6 SPs and inflict a mini-bagel.

Credit to Anderson, who put up a tough fight, even if he fell short during the 1st set TB and then deflated somewhat in the 2nd set.  In the process of solidifying his lead, DelPo also hit a 110 mph FH.  That’s faster than some players’ 1st serves!

Observe the contrast in the faces after winning and losing:

Photo: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Photo: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Photo: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Photo: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Don’t get me wrong, you still couldn’t pay me to change the final result of this match!

The Bad:

After his peak performance against Anderson, DelPo showed a bit more trouble with his game in his SF against Haas.

Mother nature lent a helping hand to DelPo after rain halted play after he trailed 1-4 in the 1st set.  The Washington mascots, panda bears named “Bam” and “Boo” hilariously dried the courts as they readied the courts for resumption of play.  After the rain delay, DelPo broke back straight away and then broke to serve for the 1st set.

However, his serves on the big points were off.  He DF-ed twice to get broken when he was serving for the 1st set.  His 1st serves would land a meter out and his 2nd serves were labored.  It seemed like he was trying to recalibrate his strategy, but suffering in the midst of trying to execute it.

The 1st set went to a TB, where Haas seemed to tense up and DelPo proved to be the steelier player.  While DelPo certainly was not at his best, he still managed to maintain his record of beating Haas in straight sets.  It was a long match that ended past midnight and DelPo would end up going to sleep at 3 AM, a mere 12 hours before his final against Isner.

While no mention of it has been made in official press, it seemed like DelPo may have had some tightness in his lower back.  He was seen clutching his lower back/waist region and his serves were not at the level he’d shown in his wins over Tomic and Anderson.  Whether this proves to be ominous for the upcoming Masters at Montreal and Cincinnati, only time will tell.

The Ugly:

The final against Isner was interesting because of DelPo’s court position when he was returning “servebot” Isner’s serves.  Early on, DelPo stood close to the baseline to return, but Isner held to love anyway.  DelPo then retreated to way behind the baseline to return serve — he was so far behind the baseline, he was in danger of running into the linespeople:

Screen shot 2013-08-05 at 11.41.20 PM

Meanwhile, DelPo was spraying errors, shanking balls and netting FHs on his own serve.  This was worrisome, given DelPo’s somewhat nervy performance against Haas in the SF.  He was broken at love after a poor game at 1*-2.  He was losing to Isner in rallies.  To ISNER!

DelPo reassuringly stepped up his game to earn two BPs when Isner served out the set.  Still, Isner would save them and ultimately take the 1st set, 6-3.  A feeling of dread came over me, as I contemplated the very real possibility that DelPo might possibly lose a final to Isner.

Thankfully, DelPo came to his senses in the 2nd set.  The most interesting part about the 2nd set: DelPo continued to stand way behind the baseline to return Isner’s 1st serve, but he would move right on the baseline to return Isner’s 2nd serves.  Whether or not this was a “mental tactic,” it played off.  While DelPo was a mere 15% and 33% respectively on return points against Isner’s serve in the 1st set, he got a better read of Isner’s serves and started returning with more confidence (60% and 71% in the 2nd set).

The turning point of the final came early in the 2nd set, when DelPo hit a great FH passing shot after Isner failed to put away an overhead.  While this passing shot was not as great as the ones he’d hit earlier on against Haas and Anderson, it was important because it signaled a momentum shift.  Minutes later, DelPo would then rifle a FH that Isner had to duck behind himself to avoid being hit by.  DelPo would go on to break Isner’s serve 3 times in a row.  He leveled the match after taking the 2nd set, 6-1, and he broke Isner’s serve early in the 3rd set.

Partly due to the fact that he’d figured out Isner’s serve and partly due to the fact that Isner was no longer red-lining, but DelPo established a clear lead in the 3rd set.  While he was still a bit nervy when serving for the title, all ended well when he hit a pretty CC BH winner.

Fans have noted the fact that DelPo has a favorable H2H against other big servers like Isner, Roddick, Anderson, Karlovic and Querrey, yet he also has a tendency to lose the 1st set against said players.  All the same, it’s encouraging that DelPo eventually got a read on Isner’s serve, which allowed him to establish himself as the aggressor.

The Questions:

The world loves DelPo right now.  He has positive juju.

That said, the tightness he showed on his serves this week is a bit worrisome.  Due to rain delay, DelPo had to do double duty at Washington and he played consecutive late-night matches in a row.  Still, he will have 1-2 days of rest before he is due to play his R2 match at the Rogers Cup, against the winner of R1 Zemlja-Dodig.

The ATP site could not contain their excitement for DelPo this week.  Could his win in Washington be a harbinger for a repeat of 2009, when he had a finalist run in Canada and a triumph at his favorite Slam, the USO?  DelPo obviously has a bit more pressure to deal with now, especially given the comparisons between then and now:

JMDP - ATP World Tour  Official Site of Men s Professional Tennis

I suppose the best way to deal with positive juju is to embrace it fully before moving on to the next challenge (at the Rogers Cup): So here’s a final celebration from DelPo, who seems to have acquired a taste for trashing the locker rooms with champagne after winning a title!  (he first debuted his “champagne celebration” after winning Rotterdam this year):

Celebration

Photo: Juan Martin del Potro FB

Embrace the pressure and the attention, DelPo!

While DelPo stays at no. 7 in the ATP ranking, he moves ahead to no. 5 in the Race to London (the points from the London Olympics come off this week).  Good progress.

The Fun:

[tweet https://twitter.com/RomiCvitkovic/status/364134205241819136 align=’center’]

The above photo is reminiscent of Maradona standing on a crate to hug DelPo at Dubai this year.

DelPo and Isner both gave great post-match pressers, with each player proclaiming the other as a favorite for the US Open.  Now, DelPo’s won the USO in the past, so Isner declaring DelPo a favorite for the upcoming Slam is not an outrageous quote.  DelPo declaring Isner as a favorite for the USO, however, was quite funny.  Given DelPo’s history of declaring heretofore unproven players as “top 10” material, he could well be coaxed into declaring Julien Benneteau to be a favorite for Roland Garros next year.

Here are clips of DelPo’s post-final presser.  He’s chirpy and he also shared fun stories about all the various nicknames he’s been given by fans/media:

Isner also had many kind words for DelPo, sharing how DelPo was quick to congratulate Isner for his title win at Atlanta last week.  I’m not exactly an Isner fan, but his comportment during the trophy ceremony and post-match presser has somewhat changed my views of him.

Rogers Cup action is coming up.  I will post updates with the draw and a review of DelPo’s opening match against Dodig!

Posted in Tennis | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Update! DelPo Will Test His Body on HCs

There’s been a fair bit of DelPo-related news after Wimbledon.  Here is a combined recap and photo post:

  • Update about the knee: DelPo’s left knee, which was hyperextended at Wimbledon, has been in fine form ever since.  He visited his doctor in Argentina, who diagnosed a sprain (no damage to the ligaments or meniscus).  A meniscus tear would have been a headache, so it’s good to know he got off relatively lightly.  He says his knee has now recovered.
  • Children love DelPo: DelPo resumed training a week after his arrival in Argentina.  He took time to visit an orphanage, as part of his partnership with UNICEF.

    1069283_529416850445144_805979873_n

    Awesome photo is awesome.

He also enjoyed a late serving of strawberries and cream, presented to him by his adorable friend, Delfi.  Although DelPo lost in the SF at Wimbledon this year, he’ll be working to take that extra step in 2014!  Otherwise, Chef Delfi will be upset:

1004072_527937097259786_1549532724_n

Photo: Juan Martin del Potro FB

  • Fun Times in Miami: After a short stay in Argentina, where he visited his family in Tandil (and took a photo with fans at a Tandil petrol station) and resumed training in Buenos Aires, DelPo flew to Miami on July 19.  He flew out early to the USA, in order to adjust to the summer heat (it’s currently the middle of winter in Argentina) and prepare for summer HC season.  DelPo often trains in Miami and it appears he trains at the same Miami tennis club that Muzz frequents.  DelPo’s early trip to Miami led to one of the most adorable photos of all time:
Juan Martin del Potro FB: "I Spent an unbelievable weekend at Disney World. I met Minnie!!! Here you have a lovely photo. Now, back to training!!"

Juan Martin del Potro FB: “I Spent an unbelievable weekend at Disney World. I met Minnie!!! Here you have a lovely photo. Now, back to training!!”

Rafa has a tradition of visiting Disney Land in Paris, after he wins Roland Garros.  DelPo, however, went to Disney World (which, as everyone knows, is better than Disney Land) and DelPo got to kiss Minnie’s nose.  Rafa, on the other hand, has only ever taken anti-septic and somewhat lame photos with Minnie.  Minnie is clearly Team DelPo, no?  I’ve got photo evidence, Minnie, so don’t you try and deny it! 🙂

  • DelPo, the Body IssueTennis players Aga Radwanska and John Isner posed nude for ESPN Magazine’s annual Body Issue, which features tasteful photos and candid interviews with athletes from many different sports.  I’m fairly confident DelPo would never agree to participate in ESPN’s Body Issue.  That said, his recent FB activity indicates an heretofore unseen willingness to show off his muscles and body.  DelPo has been doing his own take of the Body Issue.  Let’s start at Wimbledon, where he unveiled this photo of his backside:

Screen shot 2013-06-20 at 12.19.21 AM

While the concerns over DelPo’s knee were quite serious at Wimbledon, this photo of him was also inappropriately funny because of the way he seemed to be showing off his butt to maximum effect:

Screen shot 2013-07-30 at 4.49.49 PM

Those photos are the appetizers.  Fast forward to summer HC season.  DelPo shared a photo on FB where his butt was again the main focus.  Is anyone sensing a pattern here?  I guess DelPo has been training very hard to tone his gluteal muscles, in which case he should shake what his mother gave him (in a tasteful manner, of course).

Then, things got taken to another level.  Here’s DelPo in Miami, after a hitting session with 15-year old junior Stefan Kozlov.  The contrast between the two players (in age, body hair, height, etc) is hilarious:

DelPo then released a photo album of his training photos on FB.  These photos feature a shirtless DelPo who is training very hard in the Miami heat.  For some reason, he has chosen to hike up his shorts so that his upper legs are exposed.  It’s an impressive visual, for sure.  I remember Feli used to do that with his shorts too, so maybe it’s a habit among tennis players.  Perhaps his Nike shorts are too baggy.  Perhaps he wants to just wants to show off his long levers!

My main point is that DelPo seems to have more body definition.  He’s always been lanky, rangy and toned, but perhaps he’s worked on strength training in preparation for HC season.  It’s not uncommon to see other tennis players “tone up” a little during a break.  Look at those arms:

1005215_535846419802187_2064742721_n

Photo: Juan Martin del Potro FB

On Monday, DelPo traveled from Miami to Washington DC, where he will play the Citi Open.  A fan captured DelPo at Miami International Airport, where DelPo was adorably seen wearing the Bruce Springsteen t-shirt he picked up right before Wimbledon at the Boss concert at Wembley Stadium:

Screen shot 2013-07-30 at 5.22.36 PM

  • DelPo Aims for His 3rd Citi Open Title in Washington: DelPo accepted a late WC for the Washington tournament, after Tsonga withdrew with a knee injury.  As top seed, DelPo has a tricky draw in his first summer HC tournament.  Nishikori, Haas and Raonic are the other top seeds after DelPo.

DelPo’s potential route to the title: BYE – R2 Hewitt/Harrison – R3 Tomic – QF Anderson – SF Haas/Dimitrov – F Nishikori/Isner.

Although DelPo has been training regularly and he seems physically fine, he will be a bit rusty.  He will need to hit the ground running, especially if he ends up playing Hewitt in R2.  Expectations are high for DelPo, given his strong showing at Wimbledon this year.  Given the highs and lows he went through in the first half of 2013, it’s probably best to be cautious.  The best thing to hope for is that DelPo gains decent match play.  By playing Washington, DelPo has committed himself to play 3 straight weeks of tournaments before the USO.  If an early loss in Washington improves his chances of strong showings at the Montreal and Cincinnati Masters, then so be it.

In any case, DelPo showed up in very fine form at the Citi Open Players Party, which was held at the W Hotel in Washington DC.  Here he is with Nenad Zimonjic and potential R3 opponent, Bernie Tomic:

Photo: Pete Staples/Citi Open

Quite a few fans are on the grounds at Washington, which has led to welcome videos of DelPo cheerfully hitting FHs and fun anecdotes of his mishaps during training.  Things seem light-hearted and fun on the DelPo front.  He even managed a short re-enactment of Blow-Up, where he got behind the camera.

In his pre-tournament presser, DelPo responded to a question about the friendliness among top players and whether or not he agreed with Jimmy Connors’ argument that tennis players should be more at odds with each other (at 2:12):

DelPo: “Of course, at the end of the match, I would like to kill Novak [for beating me], but I couldn’t do that (laughter).  I like the way it is now—more friendly.”

Take that, Connors!!

DelPo will start his Washington campaign on Wednesday, where he will face the winner of Hewitt and Harrison.  For those interested, this is his Nike kit for the summer HC season.

Posted in Tennis | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Wimbledon: Chapeau, Gentlemen

It may not have been a traditional grass-court match, but DelPo and Djokovic played a 4h48 minute thriller in their SF, in front of a crowd that included grass-court legend Stefan Edberg.  In the longest SF in Wimbledon history, Djokovic defeated DelPo in 5 sets, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (6), 6-3.

Photo: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

Although it feels strange (and a bit pathetically self-serving) to say this after a DelPo loss,  this match is undoubtedly one of the best semifinals I’ve seen at Wimbledon.  It’s up there on the list for match of the year.  The competitive atmosphere, the quality shot-making and the drama-within-a-drama kept the crowds involved for close to 5 hours.

It was a high-quality match, from start to finish.  Interestingly enough, both players found themselves struggling with one powerful weapon: DelPo’s first serves, which were at 74% in his QF win over Ferru, were a lowly 51% in the 1st set.  In the SF, DelPo only had 4 aces to Novak’s 22.  Novak’s trademark shot, the BHDTL, was misfiring as well.

Nevertheless, the level was high, with DelPo throwing the kitchen sink at Djokovic, which gave Djokovic the chance to show off his incredible “Gumby-like” defense.  Oftentimes,  a point would end if Djokovic splayed out on the grass, having run from side to side.  In terms of offense, DelPo made great use of his own BHDTL to win points.  This was clearly a tactical decision from DelPo, who is often reluctant to use the DTL shot.

However, DelPo was facing more pressure on his serve, as he DF-ed and struggled to hold.  At 3-all in the 1st set, Novak seemed to be the player more at ease with his game.  In a mark of how competitive this match was, DelPo stepped it up and played against the odds.  He hit a murderous CC FH, the first of many he would hit in this match.  Fans may be tired by now of hearing about DelPo’s flat FHs, but the ones he hit in this match were jaw-dropping.  It’s amazing to see the speed and angle he’s able to achieve on that shot, given his languid swing and his lanky frame.  However, he had early troubles with his other trademark shot, the running FH.  He overhit several of those in the 1st set.  DelPo faced scoreboard pressure at 5*-6 in the 1st set (DelPo had won the toss and chosen to receive first).  From 0-30 down, Novak cruelly brought out his BHDTL to get to 15-30.  A BH drop shot followed.  DelPo missed a BH slice (this was a costly error) and Novak would eventually take advantage of BP to take the first set, 7-5.  This was the first set DelPo had lost at Wimbledon, and the first time in four matches his serve was broken.

At 2*-3 in the 2nd set, Novak had 3 BPs on DelPo’s serve, after a FH sailed long.  DelPo would save the two BPs with a diving volley and an ace.  He would save a 4th BP with strong serves.  Incidentally, DelPo’s first serves in the 2nd set was 73%.  Spurred by that save, DelPo gained 3 BPs on Novak’s next service game, after some tremendous scrambling and 2 FH winners.  He broke Novak at love to take a 4*-3 lead in the 2nd set and would consolidate with another BHDTL and an ace.  DelPo would take the 2nd set, 6-4.

From DelPo’s perspective, his performance in the 3rd set TB will probably linger on his mind.  He’d faced continued pressure on his serve all throughout the 3rd set, having saved 3 SPs at 5*-6 and missed several BP chances on Novak’s serve at 3-all (after which he chastised the ball at the net).  There were some remarkable points in the 3rd set and it seemed fitting that it would go to a TB.  At 2-3 in the TB, DelPo netted a straightforward overhead, after missing a chance to put away the first overhead.  That point plays like a nightmare in my mind.  From that point on, Novak easily took the TB, 7-6(2).  DelPo walked back to his chair in shame, visibly disappointed with the last few points of the TB.  That DelPo had kept it so competitive in spite of serving at 59% in the 3rd set probably contributed to the disappointment:

BOa0EVtCEAA9U-5

Given the level of tennis and the drama, the 3rd set seemed a viable contender for one of the best sets of tennis played at this year’s Wimbledon.  Yet the 4th set would prove to top that one.  DelPo held his first service game after going down 0-30.  Even if he was disappointed after the 3rd set, he was still here to play.  Somewhat surprisingly, he even had time to indulge in a cute moment with Novak after debating a Hawk-Eye challenge.  Hawk-Eye proved to be a third actor on Center Court, as DelPo would not challenge a ball that was called out, which was confirmed by TV to be in.  He would have had a great chance to take the 4th set much earlier, if not for that call.  As it was, Novak held for 5-5.  That errant call did leave an opening for DelPo to showcase some of his finest forehands, as one registered at 114 mph and another registered at 121 mph.  Insanely ridiculous.

In the 4th set TB, Novak would gain 2 MPs.  DelPo showed his heart was still very much in the match, when he came up with two spectacular points to save them both.  He ripped his FHs, followed by a BHDTL and a reflexive volley to save the first MP.  Then he went crazy on his FH to save the 2nd MP.  A serve and BHDTL would give him SP on Novak’s serve.  DelPo let out a roar.  After a sharp CC BH return off Novak’s serve, DelPo broke to take the 4th set.  This was show-stopping stuff:

The first SF headed into a decider, as many wondered how the 2nd SF would ever live up to the drama of this one between DelPo and Novak.

The 5th set proved to be a competitive one, but DelPo missed a key BP chance at 2-2 when he hit a wide FH.  That was a “key point.”  Novak would go on to break DelPo at 4*-3, to serve for the match and a place in the final.  The world no. 1 had shown stunning defense to get himself in a winning position.  DelPo had one last BP chance to level the set, but Novak saved the BP and he ended up winning the match with his most favored shot that had gone astray for vast portions of this match, the BHDTL.

I’ve never been a fan of Novak’s shirt-ripping celebrations, although Berlocq and Janowicz’s later renditions of the act have sort of brought it back into fashion for me.  Thankfully, Novak was a bit more restrained in his celebration this time.  Despite this match having all the makings of a final, it was after all (and maddeningly so), only a SF:

Photo: CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images

Perhaps it was also a sign of respect toward his opponent, who’d challenged him to a very memorable match.  The two players shared a hug at the net and Novak was classy as he applauded DelPo in front of the appreciative crowd:

Photo: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images

***

Both DelPo and Djokovic gave their post-match interviews, but Novak’s quote about this SF being one of the best matches of his career reminded me of DelPo’s previous matches on grass.  Fed has said his Olympic SF win over DelPo, 19-17 in the 3rd set, was one of the matches of his career.  Ferru said his straight-set win over DelPo in R4 at Wimbledon last year was the best match he’d ever played on grass.  Now Djokovic contributes his piece to the gallery.

It’s certainly a sign of how far DelPo has come on grass, which has always been his weakest surface.  Now he leaves Wimbledon with a SF appearance, after months of lackluster results due to poor health.  This is a great result for DelPo, given the questions surrounding his recovery from the virus and his knee.

Unfortunately, this match will be brushed aside by some as another example of why DelPo will never recuperate his 2009 form.  Some will cross over into outright stupidity and suggest his 2009 USO win was a fluke.

Clearly, I disagree with these dismissive takedowns.  It would be nice for DelPo to one day emerge as the victor in these epic matches he takes part in.  Still, he’s due a large amount of credit for playing a match whose result was undecided until the very last point was played.  I’d say it’s time we stop acting so surprised when he plays so well.  Some journalists made out like this was the first time they’d seen DelPo play so well or try so hard, as if they hadn’t seen him play the Olympic SF or his finalist run at IW this year.  They’ll continue to reference his 2009 USO win as if he were “lucky” to win it.  I say DelPo’s performance at Wimbledon this past fortnight is evidence of why he’s one of the few deserving others to actually have won a Slam.

Posted in Tennis | 5 Comments

Wimbledon: Stayin’ Alive

What drama.

BOQZieACUAAEpqY

Photo: Dennis Grombkowski/Getty

Just look at his face — tremendous joy and relief.

TENNIS-GBR-WIMBLEDON

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.

BOSCwWSCEAAelnu

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.

TENNIS-GBR-WIMBLEDON

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’]

 

Posted in Tennis | 12 Comments

Wimbledon: Slam Dunk Da Funk

DelPo defeated Seppi in straight sets, 6-4 7-6(2) 6-3, to reach his first ever QF at Wimbledon.  This is a welcome step up from his previous two showings at Wimbledon, where he had reached R4, before losing to higher-ranked opponents (Rafa in 2011 and Ferrer in 2012).

Although the match itself was pretty straightforward, the pre-match doubts surrounding the condition of DelPo’s left knee and ankle were considerable.  In his presser after his R3 win over Zemlja, DelPo had said that he’d visit a doctor to determine the state of his ankle and knee.  DelPo’s media manager would later tweet that DelPo had been unable to get an MRI on the knee.  He would make a decision on whether or not to play the R4 match against Seppi in the pre-match warmup.

DelPo’s ensuing pre-match warmup at Aorangi was a fairly dramatic event.  I’m no fan of drama, but the 1-2 hours preceding DelPo’s R4 match were too tempting to ignore.  Would he play?  How bad was the knee?  Following a 25 minute hitting session, Franco Davin confirmed DelPo would play his R4 match.  “Luckily, the fall wasn’t that serious and it’s Wimbledon.”

Thank goodness DelPo’s knee showed up for the match, because he reached the Wimbledon QF and has now completed the “Quarterfinal Slam” (he’s reached the QF stage at every Slam).  Given DelPo’s struggles on grass early on his career, this is quite the feat.  Slam Dunk Da Funk, you hear?!

Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Still, my friends, we have our pride.  We needn’t get too complacent with a mere QF showing at a Slam.  Have we not rooted for more since DelPo’s breakout run in the summer of 2008?

At Wimbledon in 2013, DelPo will next face David Ferrer, who overcame a tough challenge from Croatia’s Ivan Dodig in four sets.  While DelPo faces his considerable injury problems with his left knee, Ferru has also been having his fair share of trouble with his ankle/foot.  This QF match will be a battle of the walking wounded.  Yet there’s much at stake here.  Both DelPo and Ferru have never reached a Wimbledon SF.  If Ferru were to win this QF, he would join the very exclusive club of players who have reached the SF or beyond at every Grand Slam.  As much as I respect Ferru’s hardworking ambition, I’m not sure how I feel about Ferru joining that elite club.  Therefore, I have  yet more reason to cheer for DelPo in this match-up.

Inevitably, people will slag Ferru and they will proclaim him a good-for-nothing who is merely taking up space in the draw.  Ferru had taken the 4th seed many had reserved for Rafa, in spite of Rafa’s 7-month absence from the season — many tennis fans had looked condescendingly upon Ferru, in their efforts to favor Rafa, despite the fact that every rational rankings/seedings formula showed that Ferru had clearly earned his place.

On the other hand, Ferru shouldn’t be immune to the same criticisms that plague the no. 6-8 ranked players: Why can’t Berdy/DelPo/Tsonga (and Ferru) do more and finally beat the top 4 to notch an incredible mind-shattering win at a Slam this year?  In this respect, Ferru is clearly a step behind the likes of Berdych, DelPo and Tsonga — Ferru has never beaten two top 4 players at the same Grand Slam tournament (Berdych beat Federer and Djokovic when he reached the final at 10 Wimbledon, DelPo beat Nadal and Federer to win the ’09 US Open, and Tsonga beat Murray and Nadal to reach the final at ’08 Australian Open).  Meanwhile, Ferru has yet to notch two wins over a member of the top 4 at a Grand Slam (he’s managed one so far at the AO and the ’12 RG, but never two at the same tournament — any objective opinion would agree that’s a clear shortcoming).  In this sense, Ferru occupies a very special space in the tennis world — he’s neither here nor there.

Anyway, the main conclusion is that DelPo has a very tough task ahead of him in his QF match against Ferru.  This match is a repeat of last year’s R4  Wimbledon, when Ferru handily straight-setted DelPo.  The Wimbledon QF is probably one of the truest mysteries left at Wimbledon — everyone expects Djokovic to defeat Berdych, Janowicz to pull off his deservedly epic-making SF at Wimbledon (courtesy of one Kubot) and Muzz to defeat Verdasco — but who will win the DelPo-Ferru QF?

***

DelPo has reportedly been in a splendid mood.   This can only be great news for his match-up with Ferru.

Posted in Tennis | 2 Comments

Wimbledon: All Fall Down

Wild Wednesday, in which many of the favorites crashed out of the tournament, was followed by upsets on a smaller scale in DelPo’s section of the draw.  Grega Zemlja defeated Grigor Dimitrov, the guy many had bafflingly written into the SF.  He needed 5 sets and 6 MPs to pull off the upset, but it was a deserved performance that took 2 days due to rain delays.

Zemlja’s win meant DelPo had a rematch with the Slovenian, who DelPo had defeated at the Vienna final last year.

DelPo played patiently if a bit tentatively to defeat Zemlja in straight sets, 7-5 7-6(3) 6-0 to advance to R4, where he will play Seppi (Seppi pulled off an upset of his own to defeat Nishikori in R3).

However, the relatively routine victory was marred by a scary fall DelPo took on the grass.  After stepping up the ante to take the 2nd set TB, DelPo cruised to a 3-0* lead in the 3rd set.  That’s when he chased a dropshot and hyper-extended his knee, which caused him to lay on the grass for a few scary moments.  The slow-motion replay of the fall shows the brunt of the impact his knee took.  His left leg gave out from under him and he skidded on the grass for a bit.  This is the same knee that bothered him during the clay season last year.

The Championships - Wimbledon 2013: Day Six

Photo: Getty

DelPo would get up and return to go up a double break, 4-0, but he called for the trainer right afterwards.  He seemed to be moving fine on the grass, but that may have been the result of adrenaline or the fact that the end of the match was in sight.  He then held for 5-0* relatively easily, but straight afterwards he called for an MTO to get his knee wrapped.  Despite the surprise incident at the end, DelPo broke Zemlja to win the match with a 3rd set bagel.

He seemed cautiously optimistic about his knee in his post-match interviews.  He told journalists that he didn’t think the possible knee injury was anything serious, although his media manager would later Tweet that while DelPo’s left ankle was okay, his left knee was still bothering him.  DelPo will test out the knee on Sunday and consult a doctor.  A heavily taped-up DelPo showed off his backside and hips yet again (although the context and the expression on his face are much more somber this time around):

[tweet https://twitter.com/jorgeviale/status/351117298142154752 align=’center’]

DelPo was later seen on Middle Sunday with the Bryan brothers.  Bob Bryan posted a photo of the bros with DelPo.  DelPo is wearing less tape on his knee here and he looks pretty chirpy:

Screen shot 2013-06-30 at 11.10.13 PM

Chirpy is a fitting word to describe DelPo’s post-match presser as well.  Apparently, he was light-heartedly joking throughout the interview.  Although the official transcript has yet to be released, here is a small excerpt that was tweeted:

[tweet https://twitter.com/BenRothenberg/status/351032862054690817 align=’center’]

Wimbledon then released a funny “Championships Drive – Juan Martin del Potro”:

There are a few hilarious segments in the video.  The part about Franco Davin monitoring DelPo’s chocolate intake takes the cake here (at 1:40 in the video).  Apparently, when DelPo wins matches, he is permitted to eat a ration of chocolate.  That would explain the gigantic slice of cake he was eating under the watchful eyes of Franco, after he won the Marseilles title in 2012.  Also interesting to note: DelPo says he practices and trains 7 hours a day, including gym sessions (or “Jeem,” as he pronounces it).

***

What to Look Forward to on Monday:

When play resumes at Wimbledon on Monday, all the R16 matches will take place.  Take a long look at the R16 matchups in 2013:

Djokovic – Haas
– Tomic – Berdych
– Ferrer – Dodig
– Del Potro – Seppi
Mannarino – Kubot
– Janowicz – Melzer
Verdasco – de Schepper
– Youzhny – Murray

Take another look.  Murray will not have to face a top 20 player in order to reach the final.  The winner of Mannarino-Kubot will reach the QF.  That’s how crazy Wimbledon has been this year.

Still, DelPo should fancy his chances to reach his first QF at Wimbledon.  Although the knee problem is of great concern, he is also 3-0 in the H2H against his R16 opponent, Seppi.  DelPo defeated Seppi in straight sets last year on grass at the Olympics.  This is a great opportunity for DelPo to complete the “Quarterfinal Slam.”  He will play Seppi on Court 1 on Monday after the Robson-Kanepi match.

Posted in Tennis | 2 Comments

Wimbledon: DelPo Endures a Comparatively Calm Storm

WOW.

BNt9JcnCcAA87m3

On the 10th anniversary of his first Wimbledon title in 2003 (when he defeated Philippoussis in the final), defending champion Roger Federer lost in R2 to Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky in four sets at the 2013 Wimbledon Championships.

Black Wednesday was one of the craziest days in Wimbledon history, which saw Fed, the defending champion and 7-time winner of the tournament overall, losing to ATP troll Sergiy Stakhovsky in 4 sets.  I’d watched the first 2/3 of that match and it seemed Fed was playing sluggishly.   I’d mistakenly assumed he would pick up his level, while Stakhs would be unable to maintain the high level of play he was showing.  That turned out to be a mistaken assumption.

While Rafa’s early R1 exit was very surprising, Fed’s early exit at the hands of Stakhs in R2 was certainly more shocking.  At RG this year, Fed had reached his 36th consecutive QF at a Slam.  His consistency alongside his excellence has always been an underrated part of his legacy.  That record is now broken.  Black Wednesday saw seven former world no. 1s bow out of the tournament (Federer, Hewitt, Azarenka, Sharapova, Ivanovic, Jankovic and Wozniacki).  In addition to those losses, many of the potential contenders also met unfortunately anti-climactic ends at Wimbledon (Rafa-conqueror Darcis, Tsonga, Cilic and Isner were all forced to withdraw or retire from their matches due to injury).

To recap, the early exits of Fed, Rafa, Tsonga and Cilic mean that Almagro is now the highest ranked contender still alive in Muzz’s half of the draw (Muzz cruised easily to a R2 win over Lu).  The “joke” of a draw that was Djokovic’s half has suddenly turned out to be the tougher half.

***

Given the crazy events on Wednesday (along with the numerous instances of players slipping on the grass), DelPo’s R2 match against Levine on Center Court yet again had the potential to go the wrong way.

Thankfully, it did not.  Gary Lineker astutely commented on the final DelPo-Levine result:

[tweet https://twitter.com/GaryLineker/status/350257688501960705 align=’center’]

First off, it was slightly strange that DelPo’s match was scheduled on Center.  If I were the scheduler, I’d probably have given Center Court to the R2 Berdych-Brands match, looking ahead to the potential R3 DelP0-Dimitrov for Center.  In any case, that is a negligible matter.

Photo: Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images

Photo: Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images

DelPo defeated Levine in straight sets, 6-2 7-6(7) 6-3.  While the straight sets result is encouraging, DelPo endured his fair share of struggles en route to this victory.

DelPo played patiently in the 1st set and took advantage of Levine’s early nerves to break the Canadian’s opening service game.  Courtesy of a DF from Levine, DelPo would go up a double break, 3*-0.  However, he faced trouble when serving for the 1st set.  Levine gained 2 BPs, which DelPo had to save with strong serves.  Like the players yesterday, DelPo struggled with his movement on the grass, as he slipped and lost his footing during the points.  Thankfully, he did not fall or incur injury.  DelPo saved the 2 BPs and then leaned in for a beautifully angled BH to reach SP, which he took to take a 6-2 lead.

However, DelPo had a 2nd set walkabout, in which he played a couple of loose points to get broken.  Levine, to his credit, was playing more confidently — although Levine ended up giving away too many points off DFs, he readjusted his serves and was better able to maintain his momentum during the rallies.  In the 2nd set, DelPo didn’t take advantage of his chances to gain the advantage off his returns.

Photo: BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images

After DelPo shanked a FH to miss a BP chance, he yelled at himself in front of the esteemed Wimbledon crowd (Duchess Camilla was in attendance today).  He would earn another BP when Levine was serving for the 2nd set — Levine played an impressive point to save it and the crowd was cheerily applauding afterwards.  Still, DelPo would eventually break to save the 2nd set.  Despite this change of fortune, he wasn’t able to quite take command of the ensuing TB.  DelPo and Levine constantly exchanged mini-breaks until the big man finally hit an impressive passing shot winner to take the 2nd set 7-6(7).  He let out a huge roar as the shot sailed past Levine.

Perhaps that TB stoked his fire again, but DelPo had a relatively easier time closing out the match in the 3rd set.  He went up a break early in the 3rd set and served an ace on MP to advance to R3.

Following his win, DelPo bowed to the Royal Box.  He looked deliciously awkward and it was lovely.  I’m sure Duchess Camilla appreciated it!:

Photo: BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images

In R3, DelPo will face the winner of Dimitrov-Zemlja (the two are waiting out a rain delay — they were on serve in the 5th set).  Dimitrov is the much-hyped prospect at Wimbledon this year and many commentators are fancying his prospects in the draw.   Zemlja has been playing steadily and he was a tough out for DelPo when they played the 2012 Vienna final.  DelPo will have to be more consistent in his next match, but he seems to be adjusting steadily to the surface without the slips and falls that other players had to endure.

Posted in Tennis | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wimbledon: Yes I Will

Given his patchy form of late, DelPo’s opening match against Ramos had potential to be a roller-coaster.

Thankfully, DelPo was able to play aggressively against Ramos to beat him, 6-2 7-5 6-1.  This is mildly encouraging for his next R2 match, hence the affirmative headline for this post.

He debuted his pristine white outfit and a sharp-looking “man-bag” from Nike in front of a packed court 1 crowd:

Photo: Dennis Grombowski/Getty

Photo: Dennis Grombowski/Getty

While he had to save 3 BPs in his opening service game (he served first), he showed nice acceleration on his FH to break Ramos right after and then break again to take the 1st set, 6-2.  Along the way, DelPo hit a nice winner around the net post and was strong off his BH wing.

In the 2nd set, DelPo missed a couple of BP chances early on.  He hit a beautiful BH and FH in sequence to reach BP in Ramos’ opening service game — it was great to see the way the ball skid off the grass after his shots.  However, Ramos would dig up strong serves to hold.  DelPo seemed to be a touch frustrated, as he gesticulated to his team during the changeover.

However, he stayed the course and would break Ramos with a lob to go up 4*-2 in the 2nd set.  Despite DelPo’s composed play for most of the match, he had a slightly significant wobble when he was serving for the 2nd set.  He played a couple of loose points and then hit his first DF of the match to go down triple SP.  Ramos would break back to stay in the set.  Thankfully, DelPo would break again at 15 for the 2nd set, 7-5.

In the 3rd set, Ramos hit a DF and gave away the early break to DelPo.  It’s a credit to DelPo’s consistency in this match that he was able to break Ramos again at love to go up 4*-0, courtesy of a great BH passing shot and a rifled FH winner.  DelPo would serve out the match with little trouble, 6-1.

While this opening match was encouraging, it has to be said that Ramos is primarily a clay-court specialist.  The Spaniard was unlikely to challenge DelPo on grass, so the Tower of Tandil will have to keep his eyes on the road ahead.  DelPo will next face Canada’s Jesse Levine in R2.  Levine, like Ramos, is a left-handed player (he beat Argentina’s Guido Pella in 5 sets, after Pella was forced to retire with injury).

***

Photos of DelPo at Wimbledon:

DelPo debuted his Wimbledon kit, which features a plain white Nike tee with a bright orange swoosh.  It seems white-and-orange is Nike’s theme at Wimbledon this year.  DelPo also wore a white-and-black jacket.  Defending Wimbledon champ Federer’s jacket is more intricate, as can be seen in these comparison photoss:

Photo: Dennis Grombkowski/Getty

Photo: Dennis Grombkowski/Getty

Roger+Federer+Championships+Wimbledon+2013+SMtEwwXRlkzx

Photo: Getty

Speaking of DelPo and Fed, or “FedPotro,” the two shared a friendly moment together at Wimbledon, where they were seen walking on the practice courts together:

Photo: Carl Court/Getty

Photo: Carl Court/Getty

According to DelPo’s FB update, he and Fed talked about their epic 2012 SF match at the Olympics, which took place at Wimbledon.  It was a touching memento.

In a funny turn of events, I’d noticed DelPo made a brief “appearance” in Fed’s latest Rolex ad as well.  DelPo is a fellow Rolex ambassador, but Fed is the only tennis player (or rather, the only athlete) who regularly films ads for the watchmaker.  This means that other Rolex tennis players often make appearances on the walls or backgrounds of Fed’s Rolex ads.  Here he is 🙂

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 12.50.46 AM

For some reason, DelPo’s been quite the social butterfly lately.  I guess Wimbledon is showing its appreciation for an Olympic bronze medalist!

[tweet https://twitter.com/Janie5Jones/status/349112792210632704 align=’center’]

***

In Other News:

If I find the time tomorrow, I’ll try to fit in a round-up of R1 action before R2 starts tomorrow.

In the meantime, here is a great article about Fed’s perspective on tennis players and their supposedly “boring” personalities.  Fed provides entertaining anecdotes about tennis players from before (like Clement and Kafelnikov), who were decidedly more colorful than the tennis players of today.

ALSO, STEVE DARCIS BEAT RAFA NADAL IN R1 AT WIMBLEDON.  IN STRAIGHT SETS.

Posted in Tennis | 7 Comments

Wimbledon: Question of the Draw

To much fanfare, the 2013 Wimbledon draw was released yesterday.

As many feared, no. 5 seed Nadal was drawn into Fed’s quarter.  Fed, Nadal and Muzz are all in the same half of the draw, while Djokovic and Ferru headline the other half.  This means Fed would have to defeat Nadal, Muzz and Djokovic in order to defend his title from last year.  I’d say the main beneficiaries from this arrangement are Djokovic (who faces a tough but ultimately volatile and bird-brained QF opponent in Berdy) and Muzz (whose toughest test would be his potential QF opponent, Tsonga).

As for DelPo, he received a comparatively soft landing in the draw.  This by no means guarantees success, given DelPo’s rusty form of late and his difficulties against the 4th seed, Ferrer, whose quarter of the seed he occupies.

DelPo’s potential route at Wimbledon: R1 Ramos – R2 Levine – R3 Dimitrov – R4 Nishikori/Llodra – QF Ferrer – SF Djokovic – F Federer/Nadal/God forbid Murray again…

If DelPo were in the same form he was last year, I’d appreciate this draw as a decent chance for him to not only earn his first QF spot at Wimbledon but to also make a play for his first SF showing at a Slam since 2009.  However, DelPo’s virus issues have been considerable.  6 of his 8 losses this year have been to lower-ranked opponents.  Yesterday, he lost an exho to Gasquet at the Boodles (against whom he is 5-1 in the competitive H2H).  While the Boodles is just an exho, DelPo’s form was worrisome, as he seemed to rely mostly on winning easy points off his serve — his groundstrokes were off and Gasquet, whose questionable footwork has always held him back, was able to feast off DelPo’s tentative play.  This does not inspire too much confidence, although one can’t read too much into an exho.

What was more worrisome was DelPo’s post-exho interview.  The announcer at the Boodles asked DelPo how he was feeling after the match.  DelPo’s grim reply was, “Tired.”  He looked to be in relatively good spirits, but the questions surrounding his form continue to loom.  It’s funny how almost comically paranoid Muzz and Rafa fans have been in the past over the various viruses that have struck their respective players, yet DelPo is the one who’s ultimately struggled the most with a virus.

Still, DelPo was in good enough spirits to attempt a penalty at the Boodles’ shootout:

[tweet https://twitter.com/TheBoodles/status/348104448813461504 align=’center’]

He also looked cheerful enough at his sit-down interview, where he showed off his impressively long limbs.

In any case, DelPo will need to be in much better shape at Wimbledon.  His R1 meeting against the no. 61-ranked Ramos should be a relatively straightforward match, given Ramos’ preference for clay over all other surfaces.  Then again, we can’t take anything for granted at this juncture.

It’s tough to recall another time (since his comeback in 2011) when I’ve been so pessimistic about DelPo’s chances — perhaps the 2011 US Open, the 2012 Australian Open or the 2012 Olympics?  It’d be lovely if DelPo could play to his seeding at Wimbledon this year, especially because he faces very tricky opponents in Dimitrov (the English-speaking media love Dimitrov — he’s their de facto show-pony now) and Nishikori (an underrated player who played DelPo very close last year at the Olympic QF).  More than ever, DelPo will be vulnerable against the close-but-not-quite players who will find their time to shine if DelPo is playing at a sub-par level.

Still, there is always hope that DelPo will pull through.  DelPo’s been training at the Wimbledon grounds:

[tweet https://twitter.com/WimboGroundsman/status/348400534304194560 align=’center’] [tweet https://twitter.com/KennyWright_/status/348400606085513216 align=’center’]

Also, a nice photo of DelPo with his younger fans!

[tweet https://twitter.com/Janie5Jones/status/346751364849881088 align=’center’]

Play at Wimbledon will commence on Monday with the bottom half of the men’s draw (Fed is defending champion, so his half of the draw plays on Monday).

Posted in Tennis | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Wimbledon: DelPo Announced as the 8th Seed, Adjusts to Life in GB

Following his loss to Hewitt at Queen’s, DelPo has been settling into life in Great Britain before Wimbledon starts.

First, he attended his idol Bruce Springsteen’s concert at Wembley stadium with Franco:

Screen shot 2013-06-20 at 12.11.09 AM

DelPo is a huge fan of the Boss (he follows the Boss on Twitter).  While his decision to attend a Boss concert wearing a Boss t-shirt is questionable at best, you have to admire his good taste in musical legends.  On the same day, Sharapova and Wawrinka attended a Rihanna concert.  Part of me is laughing at the fact that DelPo is the youngest of that group of players, yet he willingly chooses to attend a Boss concert over Rihanna.  An old soul, that’s our DelPo!

DelPo was then spotted running up a hill by a NY Times reporter in London town:

[tweet https://twitter.com/BenRothenberg/status/346942935788576768 align=’center’]

This tweet instantly brought to mind the Kate Bush song, “Running Up That Hill.”  This is hilarious because Kate Bush is not a singer you would normally associate with DelPo.  Kate Bush is a petite, bird-like singer while DelPo is a gigantic sasquatch.

One of my favorite Kate Bush songs is “Hounds of Love.”  Coincidentally, one of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs is “Tunnel of Love.”  In conclusion, I like cheesy songs and DelPo has a lot of love to give.

And it showed.  He would later post a photo of himself sprawled out on a lawn, doing his exercises before training:

Screen shot 2013-06-20 at 12.19.21 AMI am a bit amazed at how openly he is baiting everyone to admire his backside.  What other reason is there to post such a photo?  Sir Mix A Lot’s “Baby Got Back” comes to mind here.  Or perhaps Destiny Child’s “Bootylicious“?  To be fair, DelPo’s back muscles are lovely.  He seems to have filled out a bit, which is encouraging to see, given his recent health issues.  In any case, I suppose I have ended up compiling a mini-playlist, titled “DelPo at the 2013 Wimbledon Championships” (a well-balanced mix of the Boss, Kate Bush, Destiny’s Child and Sir Mix-a-Lot — not random at all).

Moving on to actual tennis news, the Wimbledon seeding committee has announced their seeding for the 2013 Championships.  DelPo will be the no. 8 seed (he played as the no. 9 seed last year, where he lost in R4 to Ferrer.  Last year, Tipsy was the no. 8 seed at Wimbledon — we’ve survived that nightmare).

There is no major movement in the adjusted seedings, save for Tsonga moving up one place to play as the no. 6 seed.  Rafa will play as the no. 5 seed, despite the media’s constant insinuations that he should be randomly bumped up to no. 4 seed.  In any case, this makes the upcoming draw ceremony all the more important, as Nadal, Djokovic and Federer could potentially land in the same half of the draw.  This could potentially benefit no. 2 seed Murray, who is going full-blast with his efforts to win his home Slam this year.

The draw ceremony for Wimbledon takes place at 10AM on Friday (UK time).

In the meantime, DelPo also shared a photo of himself practicing on the green grass with Kei Nishikori:

Screen shot 2013-06-20 at 12.51.51 AM

DelPo and Nishikori last played each other on grass at the 2012 Olympic QFs, which DelPo won in straight sets.  It’s incredible to see how a year has flown by since last year’s Olympics, where DelPo would lose that epic match against Fed in the SF (in a Reddit session, Fed said that SF win over DelPo was one of the toughest matches of his career), before defeating Djokovic for the bronze medal in an emotional display.

Given DelPo’s health troubles of late, it’s tough to expect the same level of success as last year.  Still, he did show encouraging signs at Queen’s last week, so the hope is he can continue to improve his form on grass.

DelPo is scheduled to play the Boodles exhibition as well.  The exho has already started and DelPo is confirmed to play this year, although he is not yet on the schedule.  For those interested, the Boodles provides live YouTube streaming of their matches.

Posted in Tennis | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments