For you Fedfanatics out there who is still feeling a bit sad about Roger’s loss and Rafa’s victory at the US Open, the above video is guaranteed to cheer you up. It is the highlights of last year’s US Open semi-final where Del Potro destroyed Rafa 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. Rafa has suffered some serious beat downs in grand slams over the years, including the losses to Tsonga and Gonzalez at the Australian Open. But this has to be the worst beat down. With all due respect to Rafa, this is just a beautiful sight. In my last post I referred to the fact that Djokovic couldn’t keep up the attacking play which saw him win the second set. In the third set Rafa lifted his game and that was the end of Djokovic. He had the momentum going into the third set but allowed Rafa to take right it back. That happens with 99% of opponents who face Rafa.
Most opponents of Rafa either get scared when Rafa starts raising his game and pumping his fist, or they don’t have the game to hang with him. Neither of these are problems for Del Potro. He has a massive game and a massive mental strength to go with it. I swear if this guy didn’t get injured so much he would had a shot at becoming the GOAT. He still may have. The only surface he has problems on his grass, although I’m sure he can learn to play on it. He has everything that is needed to be good on grass. It may just be a problem with his movement on grass which can be fixed. He is devastating on all hard courts, including fast, slow, and indoors. He is also very good on clay. One of the biggest disappointments in tennis this year for me has been Del Potro’s absence. By the end of last year he was ready to take the tennis world by storm after winning his first slam.
But then sadly he started having problems with his wrist which put him out of the game for a long time. He is now about ready to come back I think, but it will obviously take some time for him to scale his previous heights again. Of course this is not necessarily a good thing for Roger, but I’m more interested in his rivalry with Rafa. The way Rafa is going right now it his hard to see anyone stop him from winning many more slams. There just isn’t anyone with a big enough game and a strong enough mentality. There are guys like Berdych and Soderling with big enough games, but Rafa can still beat them at will since they lack mental strength. Rafa will always be vulnerable to these big hitters with their big serves and flat ground strokes, especially on the faster surfaces. But if they lack mental strength then he still finds ways to beat them.
If Del Potro recovers from his injuries and doesn’t get injured too much in the future, I think he could become Rafa’s nemesis like Rafa is Roger’s nemesis. He has it all. He has a big serve to put Rafa on the defense right away. He has the biggest forehand in the history of tennis. He has a very solid two-handed backhand which means Rafa can’t exploit that side like he can against Roger. He also has very competent volleys. I mean the guy is pretty much complete. And then of course he knows no such thing as fear. If you look at the above video you will see that on a few occasions Rafa hits an important shot and then he does the whole fist pump thing to try and send his opponent a message that he is coming back. Against most opponents this would do the trick, and frankly I’m a bit sick of seeing player after player getting intimidated by Rafa.
Del Potro on the other doesn’t even seem to notice it. He just keeps pounding serves and blasting winners from the base line. This is how you beat Rafa. If you have the smallest amount of fear Rafa will smell it like a predator and move in for the kill. It is quite incredible how Del Potro just keeps smacking winner after winner in that third set, completely unnerved by Rafa’s attempts to get back into the match. Now that is a tennis player I both respect and like. There is no doubt that Rafa is a better and more complete player this year than he was last year. He got a bigger serve and came off two slam titles this year. But there is also no doubt to me that Del Potro would have beaten him anyway had they faced at the US Open this year. He is not a good match up for Rafa, and I won’t be surprised of he keep giving Rafa a headache in the future.
Del Potro didn’t exactly get off to the ideal start against Rafa, losing the first four matches. But he only hit his stride round about the French Open last year, and since then beat Rafa three straight times. If Del Potro gets back to full health and confidence I think this trend may continue. So like I said, I don’t see anyone who can really stop Rafa right now. He is too tough a match up for Roger and the demons from the past will be hard to exorcise. Roger needs someone who can stop Rafa from winning slams at will from now on, or Rafa my catch up with him in slam titles in the next few years. I’m not counting Roger out by the way. I think he is making a new beginning with Annacone now and in time he may be able to improve his tactics enough to beat Rafa again. But he needs some extra insurance, and Del Potro might just be it.
What I like about Del Potro is that he is also a very humble and likable guy like Roger. He has great admiration for Roger and the two seems to get on well. After that amazing French Open semi-final last year you could see the respect for each other at the net, and at the US Open when Del Potro turned the result around Roger didn’t look very disappointed at all. I look forward to see what the Del Fed team can do in the future to stop Rafa.