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How Soon Is Now?

Posted by gauloises1 on October 20, 2009

Nice piece on Delpo and his shy ways from the Times. I’ve quoted it virtually in full, because I like it so much …

… When Juan Martin del Potro took the title at Flushing Meadows last month, aged 20, he became the first player to beat Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer back to back in a Grand Slam. There is every reason for the 6ft 6in Argentinian, the tallest winner of a major, to look down on all he surveys.

Yet ask his coach, Franco Davin, to describe his biggest challenge and the future appears more difficult for the world No 5. “The toughest job I have?” answers Davin, who guided the unseeded Gaston Gaudio to the 2004 French Open title but now sees the potential of Del Potro as gargantuan in comparison. “It is not to work on his shots, it is not to make him fitter. The thing I have to do every day, with almost every conversation, is to repeatedly make him believe that he has now earned the right to believe he is one of the very top players. It’s a battle to get Juan Martin to believe in himself. He feels hesitant, that’s his natural personality, and it’s important to change him.”

[…] The [London] tournament venue will allow him to extend his knowledge of architecture, a subject he intends to pursue at college when his playing days are over. “I used to draw a lot and I think I was quite good but I don’t seem to have time now,” he says in Spanish. “The architecture of certain cities is very interesting. New York means something special but I also like to look at the design of great buildings in Paris and Rome.

“I don’t know that much about London’s architecture but I saw a picture of the 02 Arena the other day and it looks very different. We’ve been told it’s the best possible venue for indoor tennis.”

Like so many extremely tall men, Del Potro walks with something of a natural stoop. There seems to be a degree of insecurity and that becomes all the more apparent with each attempt to gauge his mood. He is certainly not extrovert by nature. Quiet and reserved, the struggle to make his feelings known in English must wait for another day.

“Yes, I am a shy person,” he acknowledges. “That’s the way I was brought up, that’s what I have always been. My family is the same, we are all quite withdrawn and like to live a tranquil life at home. Nobody wants to make a fuss and I try to learn from them. I have no intention of changing off the court because nobody can change their personality. But on the court now I am a different person. Once I step over the line, I feel I’m now a much more aggressive player and that feeling is getting greater all the time.

“However, it is true that I still don’t think of myself as one of the very top players. To me there is Roger, there is Rafa. Then there are other top guys like Murray and Djokovic who are the ones people are expecting to win a big title if the top two don’t.

“Me? I’m still in the pack behind the top guys. Sure I won the US Open, which has always been my greatest ambition, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it was a big surprise for me to give the performance I did in those matches against Rafa and Roger. I honestly didn’t think I was prepared sufficiently to do what I did.”

Such comments make Davin blanche. […] “It’s a process [building confidence], a long process that requires patience,” says the coach. “But if he won the US Open with a lack of confidence, it only goes to show he can go a lot further. After working with him for nearly two years I know the way he thinks. Although he is reluctant to say he belongs at the top, there is another side that says he is determined to get there.

“Reaching the final against Roger and then to lose in five sets would have been a good performance. What he did showed there was much more. The mentality of South American players grows at a slower pace than Europeans. Federer was the same age group as Guillermo Coria and David Nalbandian but he matured much quicker. Then there was Murray, Djokovic, even Rafa. They are a year or so older than Juan Martin but established themselves much earlier. He turned 21 a few days after New York. He still has so much time.”

Del Potro’s desire not to cause a fuss was put to the test after his US Open win. He returned to a hero’s welcome in his home town of Tandil and more than half its population of 140,000 thronged the streets to welcome him as he was driven around on a fire engine. Then he was further lauded at the Bombonera football stadium of his beloved Boca Juniors. “Thankfully they did not put another microphone in my hand. But they made a special club shirt with ‘US Open champion 2009’ written on it and I kicked a few balls. That was okay.”

Like so many of his compatriots, Del Potro is engrossed in football. Last week he agonised as the national team flirted with disaster before qualifying for next year’s World Cup. The anguish was compounded when tendinitis in his wrist forced him to retire from the Shanghai Masters in a second-round match against Jurgen Melzer.

“Right now I am feeling very tired and beat-up after the experiences I have been through but it would have been so much worse if the team hadn’t won,” he says. “That would have been terrible. Argentina’s two World Cup wins were before I was even born but we have a proud tradition and believe we belong. Now I am happy for the team. Martin Palermo, who scored the [winning] goal against Peru, plays for Boca Juniors and is a friend. I also know Carlos Tevez and hope I get the chance to see him when I go to London.”

Davin can recall the national emotion triggered by the World Cup wins of 1978 and 1986 but insists he is not exaggerating by saying the reaction to Del Potro’s US Open title was not far behind. “I believe the people turned their attention from football to tennis because of what Juan Martin did,” says the former Argentina Davis Cup captain. “People back in Buenos Aires told me the Monday Juan Martin beat Federer was like the day of a World Cup final. The nation stopped.

“It has never been like that for tennis. But [it was] for Juan Martin. And he tells me he feels comfortable with this. So although he will not say he belongs right at the top, deep inside I think he now actually feels it.”

Some people have asked about the old photo of JDMP accompanying the article. Unfortunately, I can only find the watermarked versions of the shoot, but it’s under the cut for your viewing pleasure.

juan martin del potro beach

juan martin del potro beach2

juan martin del potro beach3

juan martin del potro beach4

juan martin del potro beach5

juan martin del potro beach6

juan martin del potro beach7

juan martin del potro beach8

juan martin del potro beach9

juan martin del potro beach91

Apologies for the lack of witty commentary. I’m sick and not feeling hilarious tonight. Also, these photos always make me feel a little bit like a paedophile. They’re not very funny.

10 Responses to “How Soon Is Now?”

  1. Mango said

    So awkward. So awesome. Look! Mandy and Elf are pretty much twinsies:

  2. Saoirse said

    Shyness *is* criminally vulgar for someone as awesome as our beloved Elf. Love the article, it is virtually chicken broth and a warm blanket for the soul.

    The pictures… not so much.

  3. irefusetotellyou said

    JUAN! Estoy un introvert too. And a homebody.

    Let us run off away together to be co-hermits and just sit in bed and stare eachother all day long.

    You know where to reach me. (My number’s on your restraining order.)

  4. irefusetotellyou said

    P.S: I thought he was driving a unicycle in that one picture, which would have been sufficiently AMAZING to the 900th degree.

  5. Maria said

    *snorts at IRTTY’s post* 😀 😀 I loved the article, am so glad my mum bought the Sunday Times. She showed me the article (with Elf’s I’m trying to fly with the gulls pic) as I was brushing my teeth…I could only manage a GUH sort of sound to show my appreciation. I like the image of him whilst in London of sketching buildings (if he can find the time) and wearing glasses. I think he’d look very very hot with glasses.

    Am now off to hoard other Elf related articles and build a shrine.

  6. mrdarnley said

    Typical. In the Irish version they only had pix from the US Open. Anyway good article. That’s wierd that Muzza and JMDP both have the running through the seagulls shot. Must be standard fare. If I see any pix with Juan nuzzled up to a puppy I’m going to get very suspcious.
    Also congrats to Davydenko for a fab win the other day.

  7. Mom2KidsDog said

    I truly despise his long hair. And can someone please feed him.

  8. lauren said

    Much as I think he’s the tennis equivalent of Boing Boing’s unicorn chaser, those first few pics are hilarious. Especially pic #3. C’mon, he’s 6 foot goodness knows of muscular competitor, not some wee little pixie cavorting in the raindrops. Hopefully if he gains some belief in his status he’s stop being bossed by photographers.

  9. sophienz said

    God he’s a babe.
    Y’know, cause we haven’t all said already.

  10. Mango said

    We knew Heather Watson was an Elf fan, but I didn’t realize she was such a fangirl:

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