In recent years, the Argentinian Juan Martin Del Potro, has become something of a faded glory in the tennis world. But, following his recent 2017 title win in Stockholm, could Del Potro be working his way back to the top?
Ranked No.4 in the world in 2010, by the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio he was down to the lowly rank of #145 following a dismal performance at that year’s Wimbledon, where he exited in just the third round. Del Potro was also not helped by the fact that he was recovering from two severe wrist injuries which had reduced his time on the court and hampered any possible return to full fitness.
But, after winning silver in Rio in August 2016, where he defeated Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in the first round and semi-final respectively, then taking home the Stockholm Open title in October 2016, and playing a key role in Argentina’s first ever Davis Cup victory in November, Del Potro was slowly but surely regaining his best form. And, in winning his first title of the 2017 season again in Stockholm barely a week ago, Del Potro could well be back on the road to tennis greatness.
— We Are Tennis (@WeAreTennis) October 22, 2017
Age On His Side
When one thinks of Del Potro, one assumes he has been around forever. Indeed, he qualified for his first Grand Slam in the 2006 French Open at the tender age of 17 and won his first Grand Slam at the 2009 US Open aged just 20.
But the 6 ft 6 South American is still only 29 years of age, with his best years of tennis still in front of him. Just consider that the evergreen Roger Federer triumphed both at the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year at the age of 36 – Del Potro has a fair few years in him yet.
While Federer is pushing 40, Del Potro’s other main rivals – Novak Djokovic (30), Rafael Nadal (31) and Andy Murray (30) – are still older than him despite there being only a little age difference. With a very slight age advantage over the ‘big four’ of tennis as well as an endurance level to be envious of, Del Potro has to make use of his incredibly powerful serve as well as his deep, flat, topspin groundstroke – where he pushes his opponents deeper with his heavy groundstroke and then tries to blast past them with a winner – to tire out, and get the better of, the opponents that stand between him and another Grand Slam.
Although Del Potro has had his share of lengthy spells on the sidelines, he is now back to full fitness and appearing to be at the top of his game which a win just a few days ago in the Stockholm Open demonstrated.
Meanwhile, his rivals continue to suffer. In August, Andy Murray withdrew from the US Open because of an ongoing hip problem that had contributed to his early Wimbledon exit just a few months earlier and has himself ruled out competing again in 2017 because of the issue.
— Savannah Bergoglio (@Irina92650727) October 24, 2017
Roger Federer is not getting any younger – as said earlier – and an injury sustained whilst running a bath for his children at the beginning of 2016. The Swiss ace would return in February 2016 after an operation, but cut short his season by five months following his exit from Wimbledon in the summer.
Federer’s victory at the 2017 Australian Open was his first ranking tournament in six months where he defeated Rafael Nadal, whom was himself returning from a three-month injury lay off. For the first time in his career, Federer also skipped the entire clay court swing of the season as a precaution.
“A long break is sometimes necessary and could be a trend for older players.”
– Roger Federer.
The 2017 season has also seen a number of tennis players – challengers for the US, French and Australian Open tournaments and Wimbledon – take a lengthy break due to fitness issues and illness. Novak Djokovic, Stanislas Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic have all called a halt to their seasons early, and are only scheduled to return in 2018.
Whilst many of the major tennis players will head into the new year lacking match fitness and with doubts over potential recurring injuries, Del Potro finds himself not only in a rich vein of form, but also at the peak of his physical capability.
Whilst his rivals also sit at home, Del Potro is building his confidence on the court. The Argentine, merely three days ago, retained his Stockholm title with a 6-4 6-2 victory over Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov in emphatic fashion. In just one hour and 25 minutes, Del Potro swept aside his Bulgarian rival – the world No.19 broke at 2-2 in the first set before serving nine aces in total to overwhelm his opponent.
“I played the best match of the week against Grigor today. Unlucky for that, sorry Grigor. It’s amazing to come back and hold this big trophy.”
– Juan Martin Del Potro.
In dispatching Dimitrov with ease, Del Potro has made a late-season charge to put himself within striking distance of qualifying for the ATP tour finals in London. His success means that the 29-year-old is now ranked 14th, 470 points behind Pablo Carreno Busta, who currently occupies the final qualifying spot.
Juan Martín Del Potro plays a great final vs Dimitrov, wins back to back Stockholm titles. Now 470 points away from Race #8 Carreño. Doable?
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) October 22, 2017
If Del Potro can qualify for the London finals, showcase his obvious talent, and take this form into 2018, there is no reason why he cannot break the monopoly of the ‘big four’ and take a Grand Slam from under their noses.