As you may know, I am quite a big Del Potro fan, so this is newsworthy for me. Del Potro has been injured since the Australian Open at the beginning of the year, the only event he played before Bangkok today. Today he was in action against a tricky opponent, Olivier Rochus, who played the match of his life. It is someone who he would usually beat, but as a first match back he is dangerous because he doesn’t quit and he has some great shot-making abilities too. Del Potro has a set point in the first set tie break and was a break up in the second set as well, but ended up losing 7-6(7), 6-4. So it was obviously a very close match. Del Potro also served 16 aces. No problem in that department. I didn’t watch the match but apparently his movement was still not quite up to par and of course he was still rusty.
The important thing is that he is back and he said after the match that the wrist was ‘perfect’, and that he hopes to play 5-6 more tournaments until the end of the year. Unfortunately his ranking has fell back to number 36 due to his injury, so it will be tough for him to make the Masters Cup. I am excited about Del Potro’s return. The domination of Rafa is becoming a bit boring at this point. There is few who can stop Rafa at this moment. Del Potro might be the only one. Roger has too many problems with Rafa, and even if he is at his best it’s not sure he can beat Rafa. Roger’s dominant days are now at an end. Rafa has become heir to the throne, and unless someone stops him he will overtake Roger as the GOAT of the modern era. He already has the dominant head-to-head over Roger and now he is going after his records as well.
Personally I would much prefer Del Potro to be the heir to the throne. Del Potro has the potential to do it. He has all the shots and a huge game to go with it. When he is on form he is pretty much unstoppable by anyone. He is the only player to have beaten Roger and Rafa to win a slam. After the US Open last year he was always going to dominate in a big way in 2010, but then he got the unfortunate wrist injury. It’s a shame because he could have already stopped Rafa from winning slams. Rafa has had his fair share of luck now and used it to the full, but it’s time he faced some real competition. These grand slam wins have been all too easy for him. Next year it will be Australia and if he wins that, Roger’s legacy will really start being under serious threat. If Rafa wins four slams in a row he would have done something Roger have never done and he would have a great chance of making it five in a row with the French Open coming up afterwards.
And the faster he wins this slams the worse for Roger’s records, because Rafa must eventually burn out given his playing style. I think there is enough time for Del Potro to get in shape for the Australian Open. It’s a tough ask for him beat the world’s best and win his first slam since returning, but it’s not impossible either. How he performs until the end of the year will be important. If he can go deep in some of these events and snatch a title it will go a long way towards getting his confidence back to where it was. Del Potro is a a guy with big match temperament though. He doesn’t necessarily need much confidence going into a slam to do well. Who else can stop Rafa from winning four slams in a row next year in Australia? Murray beat him this year in Australia so he has a chance, but he is so inconsistent that you just can’t depend on him.
I’ve already made myself clear about Djokovic. He is only there to pick up the pieces when Roger or Rafa loses for some reason. He is not a slam winner otherwise. You can’t depend on Roger either to beat Rafa, given their history. It’s not completely out of the question, but it’s not likely the way I see it. I just don’t see how he will overcome the mental superiority that Rafa has over him unless he actually becomes a different person, and that is not happening. He can adjust his tactics to the point where it’s ideal to beat Rafa, but what happens when he must go in for the kill? It’s never as much a tactical thing as a mental thing. You can have the best tactics in the world to beat a given player, but if you don’t truly believe you can beat them, you will lose the big points and the match regardless. I’m sorry of all of this depresses you, but I am just being honest.
You know me. I’m a pretty practical guy. But on the other hand I also believe that thoughts and attitudes can change things. If we are all going to believe that Roger will never again beat Rafa and be pessimistic about it, it won’t help much either. From a practical point of view I think Roger’s chances is slim to beat Rafa at a slam again, but we as fans can send Roger a message by believing and being positive about it. We know he checks into his own forum from time to time and if people are doubtful as to whether he can beat Rafa again it will affect him. So lets be positive and believe that he can do it, even if it doesn’t sound very logical. I know this post is about Del Potro’ return, but I would like nothing better than to see Roger winning more slams. That is obviously preferable to Del Potro stopping Rafa and winning slams himself.
If Del Potro comes back to full confidence he could stop Roger from winning more slams himself, so there is that as well. Whatever happens, I think it is good for tennis to have Del Potro back and I look forward to see him back at his best.