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"Climbing the Comeback Mountain with the Tower of Tandil."

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Archive for the ‘juan martin del potro’ Category

Dark Times.

Posted by gauloises1 on February 20, 2011

Andy Roddick d. Juan Martin del Potro, 63 64

Hearty congratulations that I nearly almost feel to Andy Roddick, who played impressively to claim his first win over Delpo and advance to his 50th (!) career final. If he wins tomorrow, it will be his 30th career title. That’s just insane. As Delpo said, “Andy I think will be in the top 10 forever.”

It’s, you know, hard to overlook the dispiriting aspects of today’s match to what Roddick did right, but really he did a hell of a lot right and if he played like this every match then things would really become exciting. He was fired-up right out of the gate, an aspect of his performance noticeably lacking against Hewitt, and broke Delpo in his very first service game (shades of last week’s semi-final against Verdasco).  He had his tactics worked out perfectly; Delpo had a fair amount of success in the first set when he pinned Roddick back behind the baseline, but Roddick refused to allow him to do that on a consistent basis, playing aggressively and actually hitting out.

Delpo did call for the trainer early in the first set for some intensive thigh massage, complaining of tightness in his hamstring, but it didn’t seem to hamper his movement too much. He was slow moving out to the forehand side and as a result Roddick repeatedly stung him with his backhand down the line (that he apparently has), but he’s had that problem since his comeback. As for the injury, I’m hoping (and believing) that it’s what it appears to be – a slight strain as the result of playing a decent amount of matches last week and this that his body has become unaccustomed to.

Roddick said after the match that he felt he’d played one bad game. That would be his first service game of the second set, a fairly woeful one which saw him give up the break; but Delpo, frustratingly, couldn’t hold despite ample chances. One of the things I’ve always associated with Delpo is his ability to pull the big serve, the big shot out of his pocket at the right moment, and he didn’t have that today. He had easy holds, but only when he was down a break; a fair amount of aces, but not at key moments; and some massive winners that he couldn’t land when he had to. Frustrating.

But I was talking about Roddick. He had some issues with his shoulder, self-diagnosed as a pinched nerve and not too much to worry about, but as the set went on and Delpo became more frustrated, his focus switched more to defense and he really showcased some absurd retrieving. There was one point in particular when Delpo was hitting the ball as hard as he could (meaty grunts and everything), and Roddick simply got everything back until he managed to draw the error. All in all, he had a solid tactical plan and executed it near perfectly.

And he made this face.

But as well as Roddick played, this match was a salutory reminder (again) of how far Delpo has fallen from his former level. I keep trying to remember how giddily happy I am to see him playing again, because there’s just nobody like him, and he’s taking lesser opponents in his mammoth stride right now; but there’s no denying that it’s utterly disheartening to see him being handled by players that we all know he can contend with. It’s an interesting education in the difference between mid-ranked players like Sela or Gabashvili, and the top-flight guys (I may be stretching a point to include Baghdatis in that, but the likes of Roddick and Verdasco, certainly). It just really bites that right now Delpo is on the wrong side of that line.

But then I’m losing myself in dark thoughts and I hear this quote from Delpo’s presser. Asked what the difference was in Roddick’s game that explained the result today, he said that the last time they played was in 2009 and “that was my year”.

And that just kills me. Because I simply will not countenance that kind of thinking. Obviously I’m charmed by his wry, man-of-few-words acceptance of his situation – I’m only human – but that’s the sort of thing I think to myself in maudlin moments. It’s not the sort of thing that anyone else is allowed to say or that he’s allowed to even think. Because your best days are not behind you, Delpo. They’re just not. You’re absurdly young, painfully talented, and healthy (sort of, even if you do need to be sellotaped back together in the middle of every match). You’re going to be fine, and back, and better than you were before. You just are. Keep the faith. No pasaran!

… Maybe the new tagline of this blog should be “drunken Delpo fan therapy”. But still.

Anyway, on to Delray Beach with Delpo. And Roddick will be facing Milos Raonic in the final, after the wee Canadian defeated Mardy Fish  64 46 63 earlier in the day. Fish was fairly feeble, I thought, but Raonic was once again very impressive. He’s guaranteed to become the highest ranked Canadian ever or something even if he doesn’t win the title, and if he does, that’s a ridiculous achievement. Hell, it’s still a ridiculous achievement if he doesn’t. I still think we’ll get his true measure once the white-hot confidence that’s currently sustaining him runs out and we see how he regroups and kicks on from there, but at the same time I refuse not to be a little bit excited about someone who holds out such great promise.

  

Posted in andy roddick, juan martin del potro, memphis, milos raonic | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

He Won, He Won #3, a.k.a BRING IT ON

Posted by gauloises1 on February 19, 2011

Very, very exciting, people. Delpo beat Michael Russell 64 62 to make the semis of the Memphis 500, thus proving once and for all that elves really do pwn hobbits at everything except ringbearing (and the jury’s out on that one). He still hasn’t lost his serve once in the tournament and will go up against Andy Roddick in tonight’s semi-final.

Roddick had a good win last night over Lleyton Hewitt, but he did come out miserably flat. Either way it should be a good match; both of their most recent encounters went to three sets. And whatever happens, Delpo’s in the semi-finals of a 500. This is very, very good. But don’t take my word for it, let him tell you himself.

The other semi-final will be contested between Mardy Fish, who beat Sam Querrey, and the seemingly unstoppable Milos Raonic, who beat qualifier Robert Kendrick in three aceriffic sets.

I know most of you will be rooting for Raonic (as will I), but the laws of universal justice require me to call attention to the very sweet shoutout to Delpo from Fish in this Q&A, courtesy of the legendary Bobby Chiantapelli:

Juan Martín del Potro mentioned you’d play more doubles together this year. Your thoughts on him and his game right now?
I love Juan! He’s one of the best guys out here, one of the most laid-back guys. I’m a lot older than him. We played a few times. I remember playing him here one year. It might have been 2007 when he was still really young. He was ranked 60 in the world or so. I beat Juan like maybe 6-1, 7-6 in a tight tiebreaker. I played really well, and I thought this guy could be really, really good when I left the court. I remember that. I was happy to see his results. We played doubles in Madrid. We had a great time. So we’ll try to play again. He’s certainly one of the best players in the world and a pretty good doubles partner for me.

source

Bless. Meanwhile, the ladies final will feature Magdalena Rybarikova against the tournament’s last seed standing, Raonic’s compatriot Rebecca Marino.

Go Canada.

ATP

Singles – Quarter-finals
[1] A Roddick (USA) d L Hewitt (AUS) 46 63 64
[4] M Fish (USA) d [5] S Querrey (USA) 63 64
[WC] J Del Potro (ARG) d [Q] M Russell (USA) 64 62
[WC] M Raonic (CAN) d [Q] R Kendrick (USA) 64 36 63

WTA

Singles – Semifinals
(6) Rebecca Marino (CAN) d. Evgeniya Rodina (RUS) 67(1) 64 61
Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) d. Lucie Hradecka (CZE) 62 46 64

Doubles – Semifinals
(2) Govortsova/Kudryavtseva (BLR/RUS) d. (3) King/Krajicek (USA/NED) 36 62 108
(4) Hlavackova/Hradecka (CZE/CZE) d. Pervak/Senoglu (RUS/TUR) 62 61

Posted in andy roddick, juan martin del potro, magdalena rybarikova, mardy fish, milos raonic, rebecca marino, video | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

He Wo-on, He Wo-on #2

Posted by gauloises1 on February 18, 2011

The second installment in a continuing series. I just call them that because … well, that’s all I can really think after he wins each and every match.

 

64 63 over world no. 24 John Isner.

64 64 over world no. 62 Ivan Dodig.

Hitting the ball pretty damn well for someone who’s ranked 298 in the world.

Michael Russell next. He’s actually beaten Delpo once before, back in 2008. I mainly remember him as the Hobbit-a-like who took a set off Delpo during the big man’s troubled 2010 Australian Open campaign.

Elves > Hobbits. Everyone knows that.  

Posted in juan martin del potro, memphis, michael russell | Tagged: , | 9 Comments »

He Won, He Won (And Lost, But That’s OK).

Posted by gauloises1 on February 13, 2011

So while I was mooching around in Palace at novel-writing bootcamp with intermittent internet, Delpo continued to be winny, beating Lukas Lacko and then Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets to reach the semi-finals of San Jose. Where he lost. To Fernando Verdasco. But that’s OK.

  

Soul-burningly, blood-boilingly, teeth-grindingly, buttock-clenchingly OK.

No, really. I don’t know if it’s because I’m trying to keep my expectations very low, but I was really pleased with the way Delpo played this week. Admittedly it wasn’t the best tennis I’ve seen from Lacko or Hewitt, but their opportunities were limited because Delpo was hitting the ball well – and most importantly, serving solidly and well. If he can keep that up, he’ll get through a lot of matches while his confidence behind the ball comes back. Last night, he dropped his first service game against Verdasco and never got the initiative back, as the defending champion was just too good and even the customary second-set wobble was only momentary. But it’s totally OK.

Even in an orange tent, it’s OK.

Delpo will be heading on to Memphis next, where he’s drawn John Isner in the first round.

Meanwhile, Verdasco will face Milos Raonic in the final after the wee curly-topped Canadian was given a walkover by Gael Monfils, who withdrew suffering from a wrist injury that’s apparently been bothering him for some time. That’s Milos’ first ATP final, and he beat Xavier Malisse, James Blake and Ricardas Berankis to get there, so we’ll say he earned it, shall we? Good. I rather think Verdasco on this form may be quite a large step too far, but it’s still been another great week for Mr. Momentum.

Posted in fernando verdasco, juan martin del potro, san jose | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

He Won, He Won

Posted by gauloises1 on February 9, 2011

Hopefully the first of many. Delpo beat Teimuraz Gabashvili in the first round of the SAP San Jose Open, 63 62.

He Juan, he Juan.

Childish Gambino dance party!

Lukas Lacko next. Who just beat Sam Querrey. Again. Sadface.

Posted in juan martin del potro, san jose | Tagged: | 6 Comments »

I Could Listen To Him Mumble Incomprehensibly All Day.

Posted by gauloises1 on February 5, 2011

One day I will learn to embed videos. In the meantime, clicky clicky.

Posted in juan martin del potro, video | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

Your Semi-Regular Delpo Update

Posted by gauloises1 on February 3, 2011

What’s our favourite world no. 485 up to these days? Apart from being generally perfect.

Well, he confirmed his schedule for the next few weeks via twitter; he’s playing the SAP Open in San Jose (begins 7th February, a.k.a next week), followed by the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships in Memphis and then Delray Beach.

That takes us up to the end of February. He’s also confirmed he won’t be playing the first round Davis Cup tie against Romania in March as he’ll be busy concentrating on building up his ranking. It looks like he’ll be using his protected ranking to enter San Jose, but Memphis have given him a wildcard – and so they should. Can’t quite tell about Delray Beach at the moment, but I hope he has a wildcard there too. He really, really needs to win a few matches during this swing. A 485 ranking is no joke. That’s, like, a British ranking.

The general mood is sombre but resolute, as in his recent ATP World Tour Uncovered video, which I have watched about a thousand times. Once I run across a youtube link for it, I’ll embed. Also, if any NB-readers out there are willing to cop to being one of those girls who stand around beaming nervously at him so that he virtually has to step over them to avoid a trampling, you will become my hero. That is all.

This concludes your semi-regular Delpo update …

EDIT: And if you want an insight into the up-close-and-personal Australian Open practice-court del Potro perving experience, check out one stalker woman’s experience on the great Court Thirteen.

Posted in juan martin del potro | 11 Comments »

Up and Down … And Down

Posted by gauloises1 on January 20, 2011

Marcos Baghdatis d. Juan Martin del Potro 61 63 46 63

Let’s be honest, we all knew it was going to happen. Well … that’s not true, really. After Baghdatis going five sets in his opener with Gregor Zemjla (no offence, Slovenia’s finest) and JMDP winning in straights against Sela, I was experiencing hope. That died pretty quickly. Putting Delpo on court with a class player like Baghdatis – who is playing above his current ranking of 22 at the moment – was a sharp  lesson in how far he has to go.

Positives? He worked so hard out there and refused to give up, seizing his opportunity to put some points together and take the third set 6-4. Even after he surrendered a break early in the fourth and Baghdatis was running with it, Delpo could have concluded he’d done enough and let it go, but he kept fighting, eventually forcing Baghdatis to ace him to get him off the court. And there were moments, especially towards the end of the match, when everything clicked and he strung sequences of shots together that could have come from 2009 and reminded everyone just how good he was.

Negatives? Well, he lost, so that’s a fairly major one. And he never really looked like winning. The phrase ‘a shadow of his former self’ keeps wanting to get out, but it makes me sad, so I’ll keep it in. Let’s just say that he’s got roughly the accuracy of a stormtrooper out there, and he’s moving about as well as one.

His shot selection and decision-making was way off at times as well. But all of that comes with more matches, doesn’t it? You just need to play matches.

Of course, having lost here and failed to defend his 2010 fourth-round points, his ranking is now projected to drop into the 400s. But he’s got a protected ranking to enter 9 tournaments, or until I think June 20th, whichever happens first, so he’s not going to have problems playing. Of course, he won’t be seeded, so there’s nothing to stop him getting knocked out by the top seed in the first round of each of those 9 tournaments, and every lower-ranked player will be smelling blood. But nothing to stop him playing lots and lots of lovely matches, as long as he’s healthy.

Oh. Did I mention this?

That’s after he was serving break point down, threw the ball up, grimaced and caught it, tried again and then watched his racquet fly out of his hand and across the court after he hit the ball (a fault, by the way). He didn’t take an MTO, and insisted afterwards that the trainer visits were merely precautionary, but … you know … damn you universe, basically.

But he didn’t beat himself; Baghdatis beat him, and did it really well (his third-round meeting with Jurgen Melzer is going to be a great match). So I’m hopeful. And the sad part is, I really am.

Posted in australian open, juan martin del potro, marcos baghdatis | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

The Totally Coincidental Return of the Elf

Posted by gauloises1 on January 19, 2011

I’d like to just state right at the beginning that the fact that I have decided to return to blogging and the fact that a certain Juan Martin del Potro has returned to the courts are entirely unrelated. There is such a thing as coincidence, you know. This isn’t CSI; sometimes events when viewed together do not form a damning synergy. I don’t know how that blood got there. I’m not on trial here.

Anyway. Did you know that Juan Martin del Potro is back?

And he brought his giant arms.

Delpo, now ranked 236 in the world, played his first Slam match since the 2010 Australian Open yesterday and won it, beating Dudi Sela 76(13) 64 64. I will pause for applause and general jubilation because … he won a match. In a Slam.

Don’t get me wrong, if he’d lost I probably would be treating the fact that he played a match in a Slam as a triumph because that’s what it feels like. And there’s no reason to get ahead of ourselves. There were plenty of negatives in Delpo’s performance; he missed frequently to the tune of 52 unforced errors, he didn’t return well, and his second serve – never the strongest part of his game – was fairly woeful. Most worrying of all, he looked slow and sluggish; it doesn’t matter if he’s cracking that forehand seemingly as hard as ever if he can’t get into position to hit it.

You can’t overestimate the importance of match play in recapturing that elusive creature called ‘form’, and Delpo is nowhere near his pre-injury level – yet. But he’s not playing like someone ranked down in the 200s, either. Rusty and slipshod as he was throughout the match, he never backed off or stopped going for his shots – most crucially in the first set tiebreak, after squandering a break of serve and a mini-break advantage and going set point down. It was a cracking forehand into the corner that earned him the tiebreak and the set, and he didn’t look back.

All in all, I think as a Delpo fan – have I mentioned that? – I’m finding his attitude on the court more encouraging even than his play. He’s been gone for a year and he’s under an enormous spotlight; everyone’s questioning when and if he’ll get back to his old form, looking to him to pick up where he left off in 2009. He’s got every reason to be anxious, tentative and frustrated on the court, but that’s not what we saw from him yesterday. He simply got on with it in the unassuming fashion that characterises him. His head was in the game.

The same tenacity and disarming humility has been evident in his press conferences, which have revolved so far in 2011 around the same theme – the long road back to where he was.

Q. Can you describe this last year with your injury.

JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: I had a very bad year. For three or four months nobody knows about my wrist. I think that’s a bad thing for my mind. But after the surgery, the doctor say between four and six months you will be playing again. I was very, very quiet. Because if I do my step by step very quiet, I will be playing again. That’s what is happen now.

I have a good start season. I beat Feliciano López last week and today I won another match. That’s what I need. I need time, I need matches, I need sets, I need hours into the court. Then in the future, I will be better.

 source

Let’s be honest, Delpo isn’t the most fluid or articulate person in English. So when he’s saying all the right things, it means something.

He also talked about the importance of feeling that his fellow players supported him in his absence and are glad to see him back.

Q. How good does it feel to be back in a Grand Slam arena after so much frustration for you?

JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: Well, I feel good. Is nice for me be here with these players, this tournament, and of course playing a Grand Slam.

Today I play good tennis again. But I’m really enjoying this week. I met with all the players, especially the top 10 players. They support me when I was very bad. So now I face to face with them and I say thank you.

Q. You talked about the support of the fellow top 10 players. How did they support you? Did they call you or send messages?

JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: Everything. They call me and they send an emails, everything. It’s important. They have all his schedule very close, very completed. Sometimes if you got his callings, is good because they are thinking about you and about yourself. So I just want to say thank you to all of them. For me it’s good playing against them again.

Q. Was someone calling you or writing you more than others, better friends you have on the circuit?

JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: My better friends are in Tandil. I don’t know. With one matches is good, is enough to feel they support. I don’t care if Federer send me ten message and Rafa send me two. The important thing, it’s they send to me and they was thinking about me. So I just want to say thank you.

There really does seem to be an almost universal sense of happiness that he’s healthy and playing again. I know I’m biased, but something was missing without him. I’ve no doubt the honeymoon won’t last, what with the ephemeral nature of opinion and interest in tennis. But for now, doesn’t it feel great that he’s where he ought to be again?

Steve Tignor puts it best:

Every great player occupies a distinct space on the tennis landscape. It feels right to have del Potro here again. The landscape is complete, and the small circle of players who can contend for titles is closed. In the press room afterward, del Potro says he feels the same way, like he’s back home.

Yay Delpo. Marcos Baghdatis next.

(If you want a less rabidly biased report on the match, I recommend Pete Bodo’s Big Blue, or this from the New York Times‘ Christopher Clarey.)

Posted in australian open, juan martin del potro | Tagged: | 10 Comments »

Blogging Advisory: Suspended Animation

Posted by gauloises1 on August 1, 2010

So you may have noticed there’s been very little blogging going on around here lately. This is mainly the result of a particularly fraught couple of weeks (which aren’t over yet), but to be honest it has been a long time, due to personal circumstances, since I’ve been doing justice to what I had in mind when I started this blog. It isn’t having a lot less time as much as it is the fact that having a lot less time means I put way more pressure on myself to come up with something to say. I can tell because I still manage to find the time now and again to stare at the computer in a blank fit of despair wondering where my blogging mojo went. You can see my problem.

Anyway, I’m putting New Balls, Please on indefinite leave, into carbonite, condemning it to the Bronze Sector or cryogenically freezing it – pick your metaphor.

It may be that some time away from doing this will help me rediscover my zest for it, or that I’ll get a new perspective on what exactly it is I’m trying to do. Or not. I hope I will be back, but if I’m not, I want to thank everyone who’s read and commented here over the last seventeen months – you people are amazing and insightful and funny, and the real fun of doing this has always been in reading what you have to say back to me.

I’ll still be around on twitter (@newballsplease) and email (ybounden@hotmail.co.uk) if anyone has any genius thoughts that might help. In the meantime, sorry, thank you and sorry. Rest assured I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t feel that not blogging at all would be less of a blogging fail than the past few months have been.

So, yeah. Self-flagellation party at mine tonight.

Posted in blogging advisory, juan martin del potro | 42 Comments »

 
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