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.
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]