Grand SlamsUS Open

Can Juan Martin Del Potro win another Grand Slam?

Although this blog is primarily all about the GOAT I sometimes like to blog about other players and one man who fits the bill is the guy who just lost to Roger 19-17 at the Olympics and also beat him in the 2009 US Open final, Juan Martin Del Potro.

After so many injuries and time away from the tour Del Potro has become kind of an enigma, he's capable of pulling off great matches but then he goes and loses to a total journeyman in the next round. I actually started writing this post after Roger won his 17th slam and Del Potro exited in the 4th round to David Ferrer, which I thought was a telling match. I since got side tracked but that actually worked out well because both Fed and Del Po met at the Olympics and played a 4 hour epic that Roger won 19-17 in the final set. That almost made me think he had turned a corner especially when he beat Djokovic to win the bronze but then he heads off to the Rogers Cup in Toronto and loses in straight sets to Radek Stepanek.

Hit and Miss

After the 2009 US Open where Del Potro crushed Nadal in the semi final and then beat Fed in 5 sets in the final, I think many tennis thought he was going to be the next big thing, after all he'd broken the Federer/Nadal stranglehold on grand slams that had seen them win 17 of the last 18 slams (Djokovic won Aus 2008). But since then, albeit with some really bad injuries keeping him out for almost a year he hasn't really kicked on and his career has stagnated a little.

The problem for me is Del Potro is too inconsistent, some days you see him struggling against pusher type player like Simon, whom took Del Potro to 5 sets at the US Open in 2008 and then beat him in 5 sets in 2011, the next you see him brushing aside Nadal 6-2 6-2 6-2. It's difficult to weigh up and he really is hit or miss.

This isn't just a rare occurence though, you only have to look as far back as 2 weeks ago to see it in action again – he plays unbelievable to push Roger all the way on grass, beats Djoker to win Bronze at the Olympics and then loses to a clown like Stepanek on his best surface.

Is Del Potro a One Slam Wonder?

Is Del Potro destined to be another player along the lines of Richard Krajicek? I.e red hot for 2 weeks playing unreal tennis and then never able to reproduce that form coupled with bad injuries? It's tough to say but I guess you could say that's the likely outcome based on his performances of late.

Del Potro

When I watch Del Potro I often think he hasn't developed his game, yes the injuries don't help but he's been free from those for most of 2011 and 2012 but he hasn't really moved forward since 2009. Djokovic has moved on leaps and bounds, Nadal has improved his serve and tried to not play so far behind the baseline and Federer has has to find new ways to win matches whereas Del Potro doesn't seem to have progressed a whole lot. He made a great rise up the rankings after his lay off but since then he's stagnated.

We all know he struggles against the style of play Federer plays but what about the rest? Since he's been back to full fitness he's played I think 10 matches against the big guys, twice vs Djoker, twice vs. Nadull and 6 times vs. Fed and only won one of those matches, against Djoker in the Olympics. That's a pretty poor record.

Is the injury to blame?

It was at the start of the 2010 season that Del Potro picked up a wrist injury, I think it was at the Kooyong Classic but he played the Australian Open which made it worse. He was out until after the US Open. Really it was a bad time to get injured, he had just won the US Open, beaten Federer at the World Tour Finals and must have been brimming with confidence.

He was out for what seemed like forever, his ranking slipped and in that time Nadal, Djokovic and even Murray were making improvements to their game. It definitely came at a bad time, really just as his career was gathering a lot of forward momentum so I guess it has played a big part in him not finding his form since coming back.

Does he just need a little bit of luck?

Maybe Del Potro just needs a little bit of luck, if he gets a good draw maybe his tournament will open up and if he can make the latter stages of a slam the memories of US 2009 will flood back and he can play his best tennis instead of looking like he's only got 1 gear like has has done for the past few slams.

After all it's a tough ask for any player to come back after a long term injury lay off so I suppose we have to pay credit to how quickly he's made it back up the rankings but I'm still skeptical that he can put in a serious challenge.

Putting it all together

I guess from the tone of this post so far you'd think I'm not a Del Potro fan but actually that's quite the opposite, I like him as a player and as a character. The tour needs more players like him who have a certain character about them, it's filled with too many personality less robots like Murray. So I actually I think it would suck if Del Potro was only able to 1 win slam, of course 1 is better than 0, but this guy is a supreme talent so it'd be a waste if he only managed to get one.

Do I think he can win another? I have to say I don't know. It's too easy to just assume a young slam winner who breaks through can go on to dominate but that's not automatic, you only have to look at Roddick as proof that winning a second Grand Slam is an elusive quest.

I've said it a couple of times before I do think that Del Potro's slam victory was a little flukey, Roger should never have lost that final, you know it, I know it, Roger knows it. Perhaps that slam victory built too much hype around Del Potro, if we look at his other achievements there isn't too many big scalps on his resume and he's never even won an ATP Masters 1000 title. I think that's a pretty telling stat.

Even though I do think the slam victory was a little lucky, I do hope that Del Potro just isn't another Gaudio, Johanssen, Chang or Kraijeck. He's clearly still working his way back up but the next 12/18 months will be critical. So my question to you is – is Del Potro going to win another slam or will he be another 1 hit wonder? Please answer the poll and let me know in the comments below.

[poll id=12]


Huge fan of Roger Federer. I watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or writing about tennis I play regularly myself and have a keen interest in tactics, equipment and technicalties of the sport.

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  1. “Personality less robots” Haha, I liked that one. I got a weak spot for DelPo, he’s one of the good guys. And you’re right, Roger should have never lost that USO final, but still, no matter how and under which circumstances DelPo won that match, his opponent was ROGER FEDERER. A player who is, even on a very bad day, still the best in the world. So, after all I think that DelPo’s absolutely capable of winning another one, probably USO or AO. Djokovic is not the same player as in 2011, Nadull will never be the same again and even the seemingly invincible Fed won’t play forever. I’m not talking about Murray, he won’t ever win a major anyway. The (hopefully far off) day that our Maestro retires, Juan Martin is very likely to become my favourite player on tour.

  2. Great post! I’ve been interessested in delpo since he beat fed in 2009. I think he would have to dig deep to get another slam, but it’s definitely possible. And considering this years results, he hasen’t done bad at all: AO QF he was playing against a very in form Federer (who could probably beat any one of the guys out there…). then in the french QF, he played a great match against fed and took a 2 set to 0 lead, and hadn’t he had knee problems I’m pretty sure he would have run away with victory. and now the olympics, he almost got fed on his fav surface.He’s improving, and he’s doing it fast. And although he may not be as great as Rog, I think he’s got it in him to get a couple of very god results (slam included) .

      1. I agree that losing to stefanek is poor, but considering he won the bronze medal and has been playing a lot of tennis lately, I thinks it’s still forgivable. didn’t fed lose to gulbis in 2010? sounds pretty poor to me as well…

      2. I wouldn’t read too much into that loss to Stepanek as I think it was pretty given that he’d lose early. I was sceptical of Del Potro playing Toronto in the first place. Quick change of surface, time difference, one day to prepare, still celebrating his bronze.. He was also scheduled to play doubles but withdrew. Flew straight back to Argentina, but it seems like he’s playing Cincy. Doesn’t sound like the best plan if you ask me. Although I kinda understand if he chose to play to gain ranking points as it’s pretty close between him and Tipsy and the no. 8 ranking. Before Cincy there’s a 15 points difference, advantage the Serb. I would like to see him get back to no. 8 before the USO.

      3. Yeah spending far too much money on flights, he won’t be able to afford a new racket?

        I’m interested to see how he does at US Open, probably the best barometer for his game.

  3. Interesting. Del Potro is a favorite of mine…behind Roger. And there aren’t very many I enjoy seeing play. I think I’m attracted more to the fact he is one of “good guys” in terms of attitude and respect. Although sometimes he seems to be a bit of a drama queen with the injuries. It just irks me when players take the chance on some diving, rolling, risky shot – clutch at whatever body part they “hurt” – moan, limp, and saunter to the baseline, then go on to play as if nothing happened. And I’ve seen Delpo do it on a few occasions. In fact, he did it in the match he just lost to Roger. At least he didn’t call for the trainer. But I still do like him, and hope he’ll be fit and at the top especially when Roger retires. I’m curious, Jonathan (and other readers), as to which other players you enjoy watching besides Roger.

    1. Hey Wendy,

      Yeah Del Po can milk it a little, I think he does it more to entertain the crowd than to throw his opponents though!

      As for who I like watching apart from Roger – it’s Del Potro, Kohlschreiber, Haas, Gasquet, Tsonga and that’s about it. I also liked watching Goffin when he played Fed but too early to tell if I will be a fan.

      1. Yeah, that’s true…good point about DelPo. And your likes are very similar to mine, especially Kohlschreiber and Tsonga. Thanks!

  4. I think Delpo’s best Slam chances are at the USO and French Open. I think he’ll need a bit of luck to get back to another final, but all it takes is one upset and that can happen. The injury really did set him back in 2010 and after that long break, he really has been impressive. This year alone has been superb for him, and he’s lost to Roger 6 times. Had Rog not been in his way at the French, he could have made the final there, or he could have gone one or two rounds further in each of those tournaments that he lost to Fed in. I think he’ll have a great chance to make the USO semis with Nadal not at his best (and we saw what Delpo did to him in similar circumstances in 2009).

    1. Yeah true Fed has kinda been his nemesis lately. I can’t see him beating Djoker or Dull over 5 though at the minute, maybe on a fast hard court. He aint got the legs over 5 on clay so gonna have to try blitz them.

  5. I’ll answer the question posed by Wendy:
    Delpo, Nalbandian, Haas, Davydenko, Kohlschreiber, Almagro, Raonic, Dolgopolov, Mayer, Tipsarevic, Ferrer, Simon (for a strange reason as I hate pushing usually), Monfils (get back soon!), Gasquet, Fish, and Tsonga.

  6. I don’t think Del Potro will win many.. He’s too tall.. There is no reason or logic or even stats to support this.. Its something i feel.. But i’d love to see him thrash every1 else but Federer 😉

    1. Haha. I like that theory though, kinda true though, who was the last slam champion over 6ft 3/4? Usually too immobile. Del Po ain’t a bad mover, pretty poor moving forward though, gets caught up in his feet.

      1. Safin and Goran were the only two tall GS champions before Delpo. And Safin had more variety in his game than the majority of players today, certainly including all the big men.

  7. Del potro had no interest in playing at Toronto! He even said at the end of the match he was struggling with fatigue, which I don’t blame him for with all the tennis he has been playing lately. Also have you noticed he always gives a better performance when playing for his country.

    At cincy he will play his A game and reach the final against Federer beating djokovic on his way!!

  8. Del Potro is my second favorite player behind Federer. So you may imagine the frustration that I have undergone over the last two years. That forehand of his is a force of nature and he plays such a super aggressive game, something that is so rare these days. I think his game is not made for longevity at the top. I do not think he is going to be number one for long periods of time. But he is one of those players that will threaten in every single tournament. I don’t see how he will not win another slam. He has the sheer power to threaten on every surface(if he improves his first serve to get some free points, he will be so dangerous.. For a player with his height, his first serve is relatively poor).. He is relatively young, so I really hope that he can win one more slam. But it is no given. Like others have pointed out, he has a pretty poor record in masters 1000 tournaments and needs to start beating the big boys in the best of 3 tournaments.

    I believed it when I saw him play in 2009 and will still say the same thing.. He has the potential to push Nadal out of his best surface and dethrone him at Roland Garros..

    1. Yeah his forehand is immense, there’s a clip on youtube where he hits an absolute bullet, the clip it makes off the racket is crazy.

      He can challenge but I don’t think he has the legs to beat Nadal on clay (assuming Nadal is fit)

    2. Del Po is like a time bomb waiting to go off. His forehand may be a force but after destroying Fed in USO2009, he destroyed his wrist. It’s only a matter of time that happens again because he hasn’t fixed his technique one bit.
      Yes, Del Po is my favorite too after Roger. I became of fan of him after his 2,2 and 2 waxing of Nadull at USO2009.

  9. Late to comment on this but interesting article. For me, he can win another GS but he needs to improve his mental side of things. The thing that really set him back was his injury imo. He’d just broke through and won the US Open, and then got injured. Within this time, Murray, Djoker, Nadal and to a lesser extent Roger have all improved, and when returning this has taken Delpo by surprise. He’s gone from being able to beat them well, to usually being comfortably being beaten by them see Djoker vs DelPo @ US Open. Of course there’s glimmers of hope out there, he beat Djokovic to win Bronze in the Olympics, which will give him a mental boost and I do see him winning at least one more!

    1. Hey Joe,

      Cheers for the comment.

      Yeah he’s kinda stagnated a little. I dunno what is the real cause, maybe just lack of matches or maybe his one slam was a little lucky who knows. Maybe 2013 is a make of break year.


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